WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, OKINAWA, Japan --
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a simulated non-combatant evacuation exercise at White Beach Naval Facility, Oct. 1, preparing for possible real-world contingency operations.
At White Beach, Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 7th Marines, set up processing points to remove American citizens, eligible local nationals, and other designated individuals from a simulated devastated area. The exercise situation the 31st MEU Marines encountered was a post-typhoon disaster.
In the simulation, a storm had destroyed most of the area infrastructure, and looting and rioting had taken place, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Edward Polzin, an evacuation control center chief with the 31st MEU. “In cases of disaster and civil unrest, it might become dangerous for people to stay in an area,” said Polzin. “That is why we practice evacuation.”
At the evacuation area Marines controlled an assembly point where the civilians were briefed before being processed. They were informed about what was happening and how they should cooperate. As the role players went through they and their baggage were thoroughly searched by field military police with CLB 31.
“It’s important that we are thorough in our search to make sure they aren’t getting through with knives, drugs, explosives and other things that could harm us or other civilians waiting to be evacuated,” said Lance Cpl. Tanner Beckner, field military policeman with CLB 31.
The civilians had to present the Marines with identification and passports and were asked about their background. During the screening process the role players had to stick to their stories as they were asked about nationality, family history and previous places of employment. After they had been declared clear, the civilians waited to be transported to the USS Essex (LHD2) via Navy landing craft.
While the evacuation was being conducted at White Beach, two other evacuation points were simultaneously conducted by other elements of the 31st MEU on Marine Corps Base Camp Courtney and at Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen.
The 31st MEU is conducting these exercises in conjunction with the Certification Exercise, preparing the MEU and training Marines for real-world operations.
The 31st MEU is the only MEU that is continually forward deployed and always ready to respond to a crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.