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13 Oct 2008 | Cpl. Jason Spinella

31st MEU certified for Fall



Story by: Cpl. Jason Spinella

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Combat Correspondent

OKINAWA, Japan – As the Corps’ only forward-deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) the Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU and Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) recently concluded Evaluation Exercise (EVALEX ’09) and was found mission capable, Oct. 9.

The evaluation encompassed a series of situational training exercises that tested the MEU’s readiness in their ability to plan and execute various core missions. Those missions included the insertion and extraction of a Forward Command Element, a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO), and the ability to provide humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) for a notional country. The MEU also conducted a long range helicopter raid, the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, a mass casualty drill and a mechanized raid as the concluding event of the MEU’s training.

The MEU was evaluated by Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). During an after action debriefing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), evaluators provided important and concise critiques of each mission.

According to Col. Marc Magram, the deputy operations officer, G-3, III MEF and senior evaluator, the exercise displayed a seamless integration of a well-developed and cohesive team between the 31st MEU and Amphibious Squadron 11.

“They understood the tactical standard operating procedures and there was a good information flow from the highest level to the lowest,” Magram said.

The various mission requirements also called for flawless teamwork between the Navy and Marines. Throughout the exercise, the Navy worked tirelessly to support the evaluation and ship-to-shore operations.

“The Navy did an outstanding job in balancing real world requirements while meeting EVALEX objectives,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, operations officer, 31st MEU and a Toledo, Ohio native. “Their participation in everything from landing craft support to medical support for casualties and execution of evacuee processing aboard the Essex, really demonstrates the true capabilities of the blue/green team.”

During the NEO portion of the exercise, the Marines and sailors who ran an Evacuation Control Center encountered a range of obstacles, but overcame them due to previous training and preparation.

For Sgt. Ryan Sturgell, a Military Police Platoon Sergeant with CLB-31, 31st MEU, all the work and training conducted over the past few weeks really prepared his Marines for any situation when it came to ECC operations and the successful evacuation of notional American citizens and designated local nationals.

“This is the fourth time my Marines have conducted this training, and they are more than ready,” said Sturgell, a Mansfield, Ohio native. “The best part isn’t the successful completion of EVALEX, but the fact that all of us feel very confident in our abilities to perform this in a real world operation.”

Meanwhile, some missions ran concurrently.  As the NEO and HA/DR operations came to an end, the MEU’s Mechanized Raid was well underway at Camp Hansen’s combat town training area.  The raid was conducted in order to restore stability in a notional town by capturing and destroying an enemy weapons cache.  There, Marines and sailors from Lima Co., BLT 3/1, met a small enemy force that held back the mechanized platoon for nearly an hour.  With fast troop movement and superior firepower, the Marines were able to overrun enemy forces that were concealed throughout various buildings and structures.

With the successful wrap up of EVALEX, the 31st MEU and Essex ESG are scheduled to participate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX '09), an annual exercise conducted to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue to improve professional relationships between the United States and Philippine Armed Forces.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit