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31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

The only continuously forward-deployed MEU

Okinawa, Japan
Commanding Officers Bio

Colonel John E. MernaCommanding Officer Bio Photo
Commanding Officer

Col. John E. Merna graduated from Florida State University in 1989 and was commissioned an officer of Marines in 1990. After completing The Basic School and the Infantry Officer’s Course, he was assigned to Combat Replacement Company 2 in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm. Upon return, Col. Merna was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in 29 Palms, CA. While with 3/7 from 1991 to 1993, he completed a Unit Deployment Program rotation to Okinawa and participated in a counter-narcotics mission in support of Joint Task Force-6 in the southwestern United States while serving as a rifle platoon commander, weapons platoon commander, company executive officer, and commanding officer of India Company.

Col. Merna transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego in 1993 where he served as a series commander and a company commander in the Third Recruit Training Battalion. Upon completion of this tour in 1996, he attended the Command and Control Systems School in Quantico, Va. He was then assigned duties as the battalion S-4 officer with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines in Kaneohe, HI. In this capacity as well as the commanding officer, Echo Company, he deployed to Okinawa as part of the Unit Deployment Program in 1997. He returned to Okinawa in 1999 on another Unit Deployment Program rotation and was selected to be the ground combat element commander for Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training aboard the USS Frederick.

Following his selection to Major, Col. Merna was transferred to the Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Va. to serve on the staff as a faculty advisor. Upon completion of this 3 year tour, he was selected to attend the Marine Corps Command and Staff College from 2003-2004 earning a Master’s Degree in Military Studies.

Col. Merna assumed duties in G-3 plans and G-3 current operations for 1st Marine Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004-2005. He was subsequently assigned duties as the operations officer for 1st Marine Regiment from 2005-2006. Colonel Merna was then selected as the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, serving from February 2006 through June 2008. During this tour, the battalion twice formed into a Battalion Landing Team and deployed as an element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (2006) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (2008). From 2008-2009, Col. Merna attended the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. where he received a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies. He then served in the J7/9 training division with U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., from 2009-2011. From July 2011 through May 2012, Col. Merna was assigned as the G-4 assistant chief of staff, 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Col. Merna assumed command of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on June 1, 2012.

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