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Harpers Ferry Sailors Practice NEO with 31st MEU

7 Feb 2008 | Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Joshua J. Wahl

Dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry Sailors in collaboration with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB) Marines conducted a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) exercise from White

 Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan Feb. 7.

 The training gave Sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn and practice proper procedures and techniques when evacuating American citizens and foreign nationals living, working or traveling abroad in environments that could potentially become hostile.

 The scenario had Marines infiltrating by Landing Craft Air Cushion and securing a designated area known to be hostile. This area would be used to to process evacuees for safe transport.

 "This is an exceptional event getting everybody together in one place to implement a full launch from ship–to-shore," said Lt. Col. Scott E. Erdelatz, CLB-31 Mission Commander.

 "We appreciate the help of the Sailors and know we can learn a lot from this experience working together as a team taking our skills to the next level ready to execute such missions with confidence."

 Marines gathered and processed 38 Sailors who acted as evacuees through an Evacuation Control Center (ECC), where Marines performed security checks including ID checks, bag searches and pat downs.

 "On the ship we see the training Sailors go though on a daily basis, which makes it great they can participate and see a little of what we do," said 1st Lt. Jonathan L. Peterson, CLB-31 Operations officer.

 Selected Sailors chosen in the group added diversity to the scenario in areas such as potential medical problems, pregnancies, and language barriers to add life-like circumstances to the experience.

 "Patience and being able to maintain control while limiting security risks throughout the process is what we hope to learn," said Peterson. "Our ultimate mission is to get these evacuees a safe route back to America or nearest allied country to be taken care of as quickly and safely as possible."

 After running through security checks Sailors were moved to final stages of the process receiving a wristband containing the evacuee's personal information and storing information for the senior evacuee to take with him to safety.

 "Working with the Marines and seeing what they do opened my eyes today," said Engineman 3rd Class Jonathan D. Lavoie. "It was a long day but I hope we could help them with their training."

 Harpers Ferry is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan and is assigned to the Essex expeditionary Strike Group servicing CTF 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. Commander, Task Force 76 is headquartered in White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

 For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet,

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit