OKINAWA, Japan --
As the maritime contingency force of the Asia-Pacific region, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit wrapped up their semi-annual Evaluation Exercise, Feb 13, with “mission capable.”
The five-day exercise evaluated the MEU on its capabilities in executing their Rapid Response Planning Process, a Mass Casualty operation, a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO), an Airfield Seizure, a Mechanized Raid, the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel and a Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS). In addition, the MEU was evaluated on their operational and intelligence planning and its execution.
Evaluating the scenarios, both on and off land, were Marines and Sailors from the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan. For each evaluation, the MEU was found mission capable on all aspects of the exercise.
“The Marines and Sailors of the MEU and the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group worked extremely well together in accomplishing all the various exercises,” said Col. Mark Losack, the EVALEX Senior Evaluator and the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Deputy of Operations. “The flexibility, command relationships and leadership exhibited during the training is a testament to what we do.”
A highlight of the training and one of the most probable missions the MEU may face while deployed was the successful completion of conducting a NEO exercise. The NEO exercise evaluated the MEU’s ability to evacuate American citizens from a hostile environment and safely transport them to designated safe havens.
“The NEO was good training because it helped the Marines see how the operation is executed,” said Staff Sgt. Jayston Koi, a unit leader with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and a Suva, Figi, native. “It showed the Marines what mistakes could be made, hopefully preventing them in case of a future NEO.”
While the purpose of a NEO is to sustain peace and safely evacuate noncombatants, the mission focus of a VBSS is to find and detain suspected enemies aboard a vessel and then take control of that vessel. This is was what Marines and Sailors of the MEU’s Direct Reconnaissance and Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoons and members of Company F, BLT 2/4, did as they boarded the maritime vessel the 1st Lt. Alex Bonnyman, Feb. 8.
Just off the Okinawa coastline, the team descended from CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters on to the Bonnyman’s landing pad and proceeded to search for enemies. Once enemies were detained and the vessel was secured, a prize crew comprised of Sailors from the transport dock ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), gained control of the operations of the Bonnyman.
Although the evaluators found the MEU mission capable, they weren’t the only service members that benefited from the exercise. The Sailors of the Essex ESG worked hand-in-hand with the “Green” side to ensure the MEU’s missions were met.
The exercise enables the Navy and Marines to build confidence in the teams ability to execute missions, said Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, the Operations Officer for the 31st MEU.
“The evaluation exercise was executed at the end of the Blue Green Integration Training and Amphibious Integration Training enabling our teams to bond and establish the teamwork needed to conduct complex simultaneous missions in a compressed timeline,” said Legowski, a Toledo Ohio native.
The successful wrap up of EVALEX 08’ resulted in honed proficiency and Navy/Marine Corps bonding, the 31st MEU and Essex ESG prepare for future contingency operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.