WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, OKINAWA, Japan --
With cargo and personnel aboard ship, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit left Okinawa, Japan for a patrol of the Asia-Pacific Region, Jan. 29.
More than 2,200 Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU boarded three ships; the USS Essex (LHD 2), dock landing ship USS Denver (LPD 9), and transport dock ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).
Embarkation specialists, landing support specialists and Combat Cargo Marines loaded approximately 150 vehicles and more than 2100 short-tons of cargo in less than 48 hours.
“The most important thing that needs to happen for everything to run smoothly, is everything has to keep moving,” said Staff Sgt. John M. Chilson, 31st MEU embark chief. “As long as there’s a steady flow of materials coming onto the ship, we can get everything loaded it the right place quickly.”
The need for everything to keep moving is important, but it is not possible unless the drivers, ground guides, and members of combat cargo constantly talk with each other to ensure a smooth process.
“When loading a ship, good communication is the key because without it, things slow down, people are in the wrong places and supplies may get moved into the wrong areas, making more work for us because we will have to move it again,” said Chilson.
The 31st MEU conducted four humanitarian aid missions in the last two years. In order to be ready to respond to future humanitarian missions or other contingencies, the Marines must be able to unload the ships at a moment’s notice.
“The hardest part about the on-load is getting all the vehicles in the right order; that way, when we get to where we’re going, we can offload quickly,” said Sgt. Corey Williams, 31st MEU transportation coordinator.
While on patrol, the 31st MEU is scheduled to participate in annual Theater Security Cooperation exercises in the region, including bilateral training with partner nation military forces in the Kingdom of Thailand. The training is designed to promote goodwill and strengthen relationships with host nation countries.
The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations in the Asia-Pacific area.
Always ready to respond, the 31st MEU is also prepared to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief when directed. The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation’s force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.