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Photo Information

Marines with CLB-31 move an evacuee role-player onto a stretcher during a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) rehearsal that took place after a simulated embassy reinforcement at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 12, 2020.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck

MEU Exercise: Building the Team

4 Jan 2021 | 1st Lt. Stephanie Murphy 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa – The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines (BLT 3/4), Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, Reinforced, and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, wrapped up two full weeks of rapid mission planning and execution during MEU Exercise (MEUEX), here, Dec. 18, 2020.

MEUEX is a routine exercise conducted by the 31st MEU every time the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) composites with new units. Due to the risk of international travel associated with the novel coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), personnel and units arriving in Okinawa from the United States are required to execute a strict 14-day restriction-of-movement (ROM) and receive negative results from a COVID test in order to mitigate the risks of anyone spreading the virus. Immediately after being cleared to exit ROM, BLT 3/4, from Twentynine Palms, Calif., rolled right into MEUEX with the rest of the MAGTF.

“MEUEX was the first opportunity for BLT 3/4 to execute missions with the full support and resources available within the 31st MEU. It’s a unique experience for our Marines to plan, execute, and coordinate with enablers from across the MAGTF,” said Maj. Ryan Hart, BLT 3/4 operations officer. “The BLT, or the Darkside as we call ourselves, gained a greater appreciation for the combat power that the MEU can bring to bear on the enemy in this dynamic area of operations. There’s no doubt we are part of a more lethal MAGTF as a result of the training we’ve conducted the last two weeks.”

As an MV-22B Osprey squadron stationed permanently in Okinawa, VMM-262 attaches to the 31st MEU for one year at a time and receives reinforcements from Hawaii and California to become a complete aviation combat element (ACE).

According to Maj. Gene Ziemba, VMM-262 (REIN) operations officer, “This was the second MEUEX of the year for the World Famous Flying Tigers of VMM-262, but the first opportunity to integrate with our detachments from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, and Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 as well as with BLT 3/4. This was great training and allowed us the opportunity to validate, revise and rewrite our standard operating procedures. It was the first step towards winning and learning our way into being a true reinforced squadron and a combined arms MAGTF.”

MEUEX kicked off with a scenario involving humanitarian assistance, requiring the MEU to rapidly insert a forward command element (FCE) and humanitarian assistance survey team (HAST) into a simulated embassy in order to coordinate for follow on missions. As the scenario unfolded, missions including embassy reinforcement, non-combatant evacuation, multiple reconnaissance missions and small-scale raids. The overall purpose of MEUEX was to build a well-established team and build upon existing practices to ensure readiness for upcoming exercises.

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.

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