When the service announced on April 29 the short-notice deployment of Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, it provided few details.
Marine spokesman Lt. Col. L. L. Gilbert told Marine Corps Times at the time that approximately 20 Marines would “temporarily provide routine air defense support to a larger, layered air-defense effort within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.” Back then, he declined to elaborate further, citing operational security.
Now, the Marine Corps has specified that 17 Marines from the expeditionary unit’s low-altitude air-defense detachment were deployed to Kuwait in support of U.S. Army Central, the Army formation focused on the Middle East and surrounding countries.
“The 26th MEU LAAD served as a link in a chain of layered air defense programs, systems and capabilities designed to defeat adversary Unmanned Aerial Systems within the U.S. CENTCOM Area of Responsibility,” Capt. Angelica White in a statement Monday to Marine Corps Times.
The Marines “demonstrated the USMC’s ability to rapidly deploy and redeploy episodic air-defense support capabilities,” Gilbert said in a statement to Marine Corps Times on Friday.
The spokespersons’ statements didn’t offer more specifics about the impetus for the deployment.
Gilbert declined to name the air-defense system the detachment used. That information is sensitive, he said.
“What I can say is that ‘Low-Altitude Air Defense’ captures both the proper title of the unit and the characterization of their mission,” he said in a follow-up statement to Marine Corps Times on Monday. “It is also accurate to say, as we have before, that they served as a cog in the wheel of a larger, layered air-defense effort within the (area of responsibility).”
Among the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s capabilities is the light Marine air defense integrated system, Task & Purpose previously noted.
The L-MADIS is the only counter-unmanned aerial system platform based on the East Coast that is permanently part of the Marine Corps’ capabilities, according to a photo caption on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Site.
Twelve of those systems already have been fielded, according to a Marine Corps planning document released earlier in June. The L-MADIS is light enough to be loaded onto the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft or Marine cargo helicopters.
All 17 Marines who deployed to Kuwait received the Army Achievement Medal before they returned to North Carolina, where they are based, White said.
The Army Achievement Medal is awarded to troops who distinguish themselves “by meritorious service or achievement” that doesn’t rise to the level of an Army Commendation Medal, according to the Army awards manual.
The Marines’ medals did not include a “C” device, which recognizes actions that took place in combat, or an “R” device, which recognizes actions that took place outside of an operational area but in direct support of combat, according to White.
It’s unclear where, exactly, in Kuwait the Marines went.
The U.S. military has several bases in the country. In fact, Germany, Japan and South Korea are the only foreign countries host more U.S. service members than Kuwait, according to a 2021 fact sheet by the State Department.
The recent deployment is the first time a Marine low-altitude air-defense detachment has deployed on short notice to support operations in Central Command, White said.
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was entering the last stage of a predeployment training program when the group of Marines deployed, the Marine Corps stated in its news release announcing the deployment.
The 26th MEU is based at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and is set to deploy in July to areas that fall under European Command, Africa Command and Central Command, according to White.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.