KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa, Japan --
The most decorated infantry battalion in the Marine Corps has arrived over the past week from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as the new battalion landing team, with the final flight landing here Jan. 10.
Second Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, coming in with more than 1,200 Marines and Sailors, is now the ground combat element of the 31st MEU, and is scheduled to participate in the upcoming regular patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
“We want to provide the 31st MEU with the best team possible that is ready to respond to any contingency at a moment’s notice,” said Lt. Col. Pete Farnum, commanding officer, 2/5.
2/5 comes to the MEU with attached artillery, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, and Light Armored Vehicles, enhancing the ability of the MEU to conduct the wide range of missions assigned.
“We are looking forward to being forward deployed as a force in readiness with the 31st MEU and working with the militaries of other nations while conducting Theater Security Cooperation exercises in order to build lasting relationships for the future,” said Farnum.
2/5’s motto comes from its actions at Belleau Wood during WW I. The fleeing French advised the newly-arrived Marines to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. “Retreat, Hell!” was the battalion’s response. That tenacious attitude will be put to good use as 2/5 has a busy schedule over the next several months.
The Marines of 2/5 are expected to participate in exercises designed to enhance bilateral teamwork and build theater security cooperation, and 2/5 will be conducting training together with partner nations.
“We started out with a rigorous training schedule, we brought in our new Marines, and the quality of our training we did will help us here with the 31st MEU,” said Cpl. Steven Sugg, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Company F, 2/5. “It feels great; this is my first time on the MEU. I and all the Marines of our battalion are looking forward to this,” continued the 25-year-old Colorado Springs, Co., native.
Sugg’s sentiments were echoed by many of his fellow Marines and leadership.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the Marines and Sailors of the BLT,” said Farnum. “They joined the service to be forward deployed and to experience other cultures.”
As the Marines of 2/5 travel and experience foreign environments, for many it will not be the first time abroad.
More than a third of the battalion is combat-experienced, and those deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit the Marines by keeping them ready for any eventuality.
In addition to the scheduled exercises, 2/5 is prepared, with the rest of the MEU, to respond to any humanitarian or contingency crises that may arise.
The Marine Corps is the nation’s sea-based crisis response force, and the 31st MEU and newly arrived 2/5 Marines represent power projection in the Western Pacific.
In the past 20 years, U.S. amphibious forces have responded to crises and contingencies more than 120 times, such as Afghanistan in 2001, Beirut in 2006 and Haiti in 2010. This rate is more than twice that of the Cold War period, according to Marine Corps Operating Concepts 2010.
The 31st MEU responded to four humanitarian crises in 2009 and 2010 alone, including Taiwan, the Republic of Indonesia, and the Republic of the Philippines.
2/5 is replacing 1/7, whose Marines are now headed back home to Calif., after completing a successful fall deployment with the 31st MEU.
The deployment of 2/5 to Okinawa, Japan is part of the Marine Corps’ Unit Deployment Program, which was established by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1977 to provide for the deployment of units to the Western Pacific for periods of approximately six months.
The newly arrived battalion of Marines will begin training with the 31st MEU almost immediately in preparation for the upcoming deployment.
Additional photos of BLT 2/5’s arrival in Okinawa can be viewed on the 31st MEU Facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Okinawa-Japan/31st-Marine-Expeditionary-Unit/115253045176016.