CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa --
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) to conduct Naval integration training, take part in Exercise Cobra Gold 20, and support freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas in the spring of 2020. Amidst the global spread of COVID-19, the MEU has continued training to maintain readiness and remain a dependable crisis response force for the Indo-Pacific region.
The title of the fastest crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region is something that Col. Robert Brodie, the 31st MEU commanding officer, intends for the MEU to keep amidst the new challenges presented by COVID-19.
According to Brodie, the virus is currently the world’s number one enemy. Not only is the Marine Corps actively engaged in combating COVID-19, but their family members are also doing their part on the home front.
While conducting normal operations prior to returning to Okinawa, Japan, Marines with the MEU were informed of the need to wear face masks upon their return home. In preparation for their arrival, the families of the 31st MEU went the extra mile and made over 200 of the cloth masks for the Marines to minimize their risk of exposure.
“The transition from life aboard ship including the USS America to Okinawa was different this time around,” said Brodie, “The spouses and Marines that have lived through the pandemic have made the transition as smooth as possible, and their hard work and dedication is directly contributing to maintaining the health and readiness of our Marines and Sailors. ”
In order to minimize the risk of exposure, Department of Defense (DoD) facilities including those throughout Okinawa have implemented the use of face masks and handwashing prior to entering their facilities, a tactic that, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kenyatta Ealey, logistics chief with the 31st MEU, the MEU has taken in stride.
”We are already comfortable with the rules and regulations set, we are used to being told to be ready and flexible. It’s business as usual for us,” said Ealey.
The necessities of health protection are forcing units throughout the Marine Corps to be creative in order to continue to work and train, and the 31st MEU is no different.
Marines with the MEU are currently participating in rifle and pistol ranges as well as vehicle and aircraft maintenance while complying with the regulations put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Wearing face masks and staying a safe distance away from one another, Marines are able to maintain their marksmanship and prepare their vehicles and equipment for future operations.
Ealey believes that with all the precautions put in place, the Marines and Sailors attached to the MEU just have to follow that guidance to continue to be ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
“The MEU’s adaptability allows it to continue to uphold the title of the Indo-Pacific’s premiere 9-1-1 force in readiness,” said Ealey, “even during a global pandemic.”
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps' only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.