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U.S. Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), post as security during a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) exercise aboard the U.S. Navy Ship Alan Shepard in support of a certification exercise conducted by the 31st MEU.

Photo by Cpl Kelsey J. Green

31st MEU completes annual certification exercise, prepares for bilateral training

7 Oct 2010 | Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Throughout September, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an annual certification exercise called CERTEX to update its qualifications as a Maritime Contingency Force.

The MEU is now preparing for upcoming bilateral training evolutions with neighboring countries.

CERTEX assessed the MEU’s ability to conduct a multitude of operations including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts; visit, board, search and seizures; and amphibious assaults. The exercise tested the MEU’s air, ground and logistics and command elements as well as Marine Corps and Navy interoperability.

Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, serves as the MEU’s ground combat element. The BLT conducted helicopter, vehicle, small boat and mechanized raids at numerous locations, on both Guam and Okinawa, and provided security during a mock Non-combatant Evacuation Operation lead by Combat Logistics Battalion 31.

"CERTEX was a good test for us and the culmination of 10 months of tough training by the Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/7,” said Lt. Col. Todd Simmons, BLT 1/7 commanding officer. “We are ready to execute any mission that 31st MEU assigns us. I couldn't be prouder of our whole team."

CLB-31 was the lead during HA/DR training operations exercises, including setting up a water purification system and medical treatment center as well as food and water distribution sites to help the local population.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (REIN) supported by elements of Marine Attack Squadron 542 provided air support on a daily basis, transporting Marine and Sailors from ship to shore, and supplying raids with Marine aviation close air support.

Although Marines are more than capable of accomplishing the mission once they are on the ground, getting there takes coordination with their naval counterparts of Amphibious Squadron 11. Navy personnel, assigned to the ships that the MEU is embarked on, are in charge of the well decks and flight decks, where most missions begin. They are relied on heavily for mission success.

"Essex Sailors were keenly aware of the importance of supporting the MEU CERTEX,” said Navy Capt. Dave Fluker, Essex executive officer. “In order to execute the diverse mission sets upon which the Marines were evaluated, nearly every Sailor played a role. Whether it was conducting flight operations, issuing ammunition, providing spare parts or serving over 8,000 meals a day, the Sailors quietly and professionally did their part to help ensure the success of the certification."

Being a part of a Maritime Contingency Force means there is no time for rest. The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 are moving straight into preparation for upcoming bilateral exercises with the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit