Maine from Markleeville in combined military exercise |

Maine from Markleeville in combined military exercise

by Rich Henson

Recently, Lance Cpl. Jay M. Flakus and the Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) participated in a combined military exercise with the armed forces of Kuwait. The Marines demonstrated the United States’ resolve to support and defend the tiny country and other allied nations in the Arabian Gulf against aggression.

Months of training and preparing for real world situations placed Flakus, the 20-year-old son of James and Susan Flakus of Markleeville, Calif., at the leading edge of the most capable fighting unit in the world.

The combined exercise was held at the Udairi Weapons Range, 23 miles north of Kuwait City. With U.S. and Kuwaiti dignitaries attending, the 15th MEU and their Kuwaiti counterparts conducted combined air and ground assaults against simulated targets. The role Flakus, who serves as a member of a marine ground unit, played in the exercise was just as important as other participants.

“My role was to serve with my platoon,” Flakus said.

The desert can be a hostile place to conduct combat operations, let alone training exercises. Searing hot days and chilly nights provide different scenarios for the Marines, but Flakus and the 15th MEU adapted quickly to the situation.

“The challenge was the heat, while the accomplishment was surviving the Persian Gulf,” Flakus said.

With the capability to deploy anywhere in the world, Marines train in every climate known, from an icy cold tundra to steaming tropical jungles and hot arid deserts. Through a rigorous training regiment, Flakus and other Marines can take the fight anywhere on the planet.

“The heat was intense. We trained by having no air conditioning on the ship so we could aclimatize easily,” said Flakus, a two-year Marine Corps veteran.

Embarked aboard the three ships of the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), the 15th MEU departed San Diego for the Arabian Gulf in June. The primary mission of an ARG is to deploy a mission-ready air and ground combat force anywhere in the world to protect U.S. interests. An ARG can also provide quick, support in humanitarian missions and evacuate U.S. and other civilians from areas torn by civil unrest.

Flakus and the 15th MEU were on station when the Iraqi regime again challenged sanctions imposed on that nation after the Gulf War. More than 20,000 U.S. and allied personnel quickly mobilized, forcing Saddam Hussein to abide by United Nations’ resolutions or face punishing military action.

Flakus and fellow Marines showed Kuwaiti military personnel and civilians alike that the U.S. is still committed to peace in this volatile region of the world. As the six-month cruise winds down, Flakus already has fond memories of his deployment.

“The most memorable moment had to be visiting Kuwait and the whole Persian Gulf region,” Flakus said.

The Essex and the 15th MEU was scheduled to return to Southern California late this month.

Rich Henson is a Navy journalist assigned to the Navy Public Affairs Center at Naval Station, San Diego.

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