CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan-- --
The Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a mixture of exercises and operations as they patrolled the Asia-Pacific region during 2008.
After several arduous weeks of “work-ups” and pre-deployment training on Okinawa, the MEU embarked on its annual Spring Patrol and Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific theater while embarked aboard the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group comprised of the forward-deployed USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and the USS Denver (LPD 9). A variety of bilateral training exercises between the 31st MEU and diverse host country armed forces provided the opportunity for all personnel to train alongside their international counterparts by conducting jungle and urban patrols while exchanging expertise in various martial arts and first aid classes. The culminating events were assorted Engineer, Medical and Dental Civil Action Projects, providing aid to more than 15,000 host country nationals in Timor Leste, Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines.
Other significant exercises and operations included:
February - March 2008: Exercise Balikatan ’08, Republic of the Philippines. MEU Marines and sailors worked together to rebuild a burned down school building at Maragondon Elementary School in Ternate, Cavite, Luzon. The MEU also built a school building and performed a MEDCAP and DENCAP in Balabac, Republic of the Philippines.
March 2008: MEU Marines and sailors conducted bilateral training with the Republic of Indonesia armed forces and performed MEDCAP, DENCAP and ENCAP in remote locations.
April 2008: MEU Marines and sailors conducted bilateral training in Timor-Leste with Australian soldiers and performed MEDCAP, DENCAP, and ENCAP in the local community.
May 2008: 500 Marines and sailors from BLT 2/4 participated in bilateral training during Cobra Gold ’08 in Thailand while the remainder of the MEU supported Operation Caring Response in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. The MEU sailed off the coast of Burma ready to deliver 50,000 gallons of water and other relief supplies.
September 2008: The MEU completed Blue/Green interoperability training, Amphibious Ready Group Exercise ’08 and Evaluation Exercise ’08 while embarked on the Essex ESG.
October 2008: The MEU returned to the Republic of the Philippines and continued to train alongside various units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and conducted more MEDCAP, DENCAP and community relation projects during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2008 (PHIBLEX ’08).
November 2008: The MEU participated in an amphibious landing exercise during Korean Incremental Training Program with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea Marines Corps. At the conclusion of KITP, a few elements from BLT 3/1 were transported to Rodriguez Range and continued enhanced bilateral training.
December 2008: Kilo Company, BLT 3/1 participated in Exercise Forest Light, a bilateral training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force. The exercise was conducted at the Aibano Training Area in western Honshu near the city of Takashima.
While the year was rather busy, the MEU was able to perform all its duties effectively thanks to its Marines and sailors working long hours and remaining focused on the mission. The composition for the MEU consisted of a Ground Combat Element, provided by 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines for the Spring Patrol and later 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines for the Fall Patrol. Combat Logistics Battalion 31 served as the MEU’s Logistics Combat Element and was busy all year providing logistical and medical support to the MEU. The Air Combat Element consisted of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 Reinforced and Marine Attack Squadron 513 during the spring patrol and HMM 262 (REIN) and VMA 223 for the Fall Patrol. This past year the MEU also had a change in commanders with Col. John L. Mayer relinquishing command to Col. Paul L. Damren in June and just prior to work-ups for the Fall Patrol.