OKINAWA, Japan (January 23, 2009) -- --
After six months of bilateral training exercises and maritime operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines are packing up and returning to Camp Pendleton, California.
The battalion, which served as the ground combat element (GCE) for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from July 2008 to Jan 2009, was replaced by 3rd Bn., 5th Marines Jan. 19.
Throughout the MEU’s upcoming Spring Patrol, the new BLT is scheduled to conduct training exercises comparable to those of their predecessors, with host-nation militaries in Thailand, Korea, Philippines and Australia. Capt. Eric Olsen, company commander, Company L, BLT 3/5, said he looks forward to the opportunities his Marines will have when completing future deployments with the 31st MEU.
“The Marines and sailors of BLT 3/5 have been presented a great opportunity that many of them have never experienced,” said Olsen, a Side Lake, Minn., native. “They will learn about and operate in a jungle environment, serve on amphibious ships, and train with other nation's forces.”
According to Olsen, most of the training the Marines of 3/5 have received has been geared toward desert operations and support efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the mission of the 31st MEU focuses on a variety contingencies and operations in other types of terrain and climates.
“The Marines are extremely familiar with the role of the Corps in Iraq, but I think they have lost some of their understanding about what it means to serve as ‘soldiers of the sea,” said Olsen. “I hope the Marines of Company L get a better appreciation of our naval heritage and expeditionary nature.”
As the MEU’s GCE, BLT 3/5 is scheduled to conduct a variety of training exercises including MEU-specific exercises that will prepare the Marines and sailors for possible Non-combatant Evacuation Operations or recovery operations such as a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission.
As the only forward-deployed MEU in the Asia-Pacific theater the operational tempo is high. Its members spend limited time in any one country in order to strengthen host-country relationships and conduct a wide spectrum of operations across a vast area of responsibility.
At 3/5’s Okinawa welcome aboard brief, Col. Dewey Jordan, the Base Commander of Camp Hansen, said the result of the MEU’s high operational tempo is that the Marines and sailors of 3/5 will only spend around 40 days on the island of Okinawa during their six month cycle with the MEU.
“I’ve seen a lot of BLT’s come and go since I have been the base commander here, and 3/5 looks like one of the best,” said Jordan. “I believe 3/5 will represent our country in Southeast Asia with professionalism while attached to the MEU and display the qualities a good Marine portrays.”
The MEU is scheduled to deploy with the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group the last week of January.