CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan (March 24, 2009) — --
As the Marine Corps’ only permanently forward deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU concluded sustainment training in stride after completing various training scenarios and exercises across the island, March 20.
The island-wide training exercise took place March 9-20, involving critical work and assistance from the MEU’s Command Element, along with its major subordinate elements including BLT 3/5, Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced). The sustainment training focused on night operations, planning, execution and the evaluation of the MEU’s ability to accomplish core maritime missions.
According to the 31st MEU Commanding Officer, Col. Paul L. Damren, this is the first opportunity for the MEU to assess strengths and weaknesses in accomplishing core mission essential tasks at night while integrating all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
“The MEU is expected to be able to perform all of its core missions under adverse weather conditions, both day and night. In order to achieve full mission readiness, you have to follow a building block approach,” said Damren. “Earlier this cycle we focused on integrating all elements of the MEU in daytime operations. This sustainment training period is the final step in achieving full night time capability across the MAGTF.”
During the two week sustainment training, the unit conducted various events to include a helicopter insertion of reconnaissance and surveillance assets, a boat raid and a heliborne raid, as well as convoy operations, evacuation control center (ECC) and water production training using a Tactical Water Production System (TWPS)."
This year’s exercise was comprised of several situational training exercises (STX) that enabled the MEU to execute mission essential tasks at night. Each mission was arduously planned and developed by Marines of the MEU’s battle staff, following the MEU’s Rapid Response Planning Process (R2P2) guide. The quality and time invested in the planning process was a key integration goal for the unit.
According to Damren, the sustainment training required effort from the highest echelon of planning to the troops on the ground.
“The battle staff is building upon initial successes realized during Exercise
Cobra Gold (2009) and EVALEX (Evaluation Exercise 2009) by refining internal processes and procedures related to the R2P2,” said Damren. “Marines and Sailors on the ground are focused on increasing cohesion and integration of the various elements of the MAGTF in a night environment.”
Along with training at night or in adverse conditions, simply integrating all the elements of the MAGTF forges a strong team, better capable of meeting mission requirements in air, land and sea.
"Any time the MEU has an opportunity to conduct training integrating all of its elements, we get better as a MAGTF, develop stronger unit cohesion, and enhance our ability to execute mission in a time constrained environment, day or night,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, the 31st MEU Operations Officer.
Highlights of the exercise included preparing MEU personnel to execute a noncombatant evacuation operation. Within the 31st MEU area of operations, conducting a real world NEO is always possible, meaning the unit must retain its proficiency to perform this type mission. Members of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 set up an Evacuation Control Center (ECC) to process and evacuate noncombatants. There, role-playing “protestors” provoked and aggravated the security elements prompting them to conduct crowd control measures.
For the ECC team members, the NEO allowed them to gain a better understanding for complications which may be prevalent in an evacuation situation, and gave them the opportunity to build confidence and hone skills if a real scenario should arise.
The 31st MEU is gearing up to execute the second part of their spring patrol throughout the Asia-Pacific region with the USS Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group. During the deployment, the Navy and Marine Corps team is scheduled to conduct additional exercises to integrate and hone surface and Naval operations.
"We look forward to getting back on the ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready
Group in early April for the next phase of the spring patrol,” said Damren. “With this period of sustainment training behind us, I am more confident than ever that the 31st MEU is ready to respond to any contingency that may come up within our area of operations.”