KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, Japan --
The ‘War Dogs’ of Twentynine Palms, Calif., have begun arriving here to join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as the new battalion landing team, with the first flight landing June 3.
Second Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, known as the ‘War Dogs,’ based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., is coming in with more than 1,200 Marines and Sailors. They now become the new ground combat element of the 31st MEU, and are scheduled to participate in the upcoming regular deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.
“We have had a lot of good training in 29 Palms and Camp Pendleton over the past months, all to get us ready to come out here to the MEU,” said Lt. Col. Donald Tomich, commanding officer, 2/7. “Our Marines have worked hard to get here and we are looking forward to the deployment with the 31st MEU.”
2/7 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.
“This is the first time for a lot of our guys to get out of the United States, so we are anticipating doing training with other nations’ militaries to gain shared experiences,” said Tomich. “We want to continue to contribute to the tradition of excellence that has gone before us here with the 31st MEU.”
2/7’s previous deployment with the 31st MEU was last year, and before then, the battalion was deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The battalion’s deployed experiences will be put to good use as they have a busy schedule over the next several months preparing for a wide range of possible missions in every imaginable climate.
“There is a huge difference in the climate here,” said Sgt. Jacob Hawken, Personal Security Detail platoon sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company, 2/7. As soon as we got here it was raining. We just came from a very dry climate in 29 Palms, and as soon as we got off the plane we got soaked."
The Marines and Sailors of 2/7 are expected to participate in exercises designed to enhance bilateral teamwork and build theater security cooperation, as well as conducting training together with partner nations in the Asia-Pacific region.
As the Marines of 2/7 travel and experience foreign environments, for many it will not be the first time abroad.
“I have been deployed with the 31st MEU before, and I am looking forward to training with other countries again, new experiences and getting to know other the other nation’s militaries,” said Cpl. Jordan Layton, a cannoneer with Battery K, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines, attached to 2/7 for the MEU deployment. “It is always good to train in different areas. 29 Palms is always dry and hot, and Okinawa or countries in Asia tend to be wetter and humid, so it is good to have those different environments to work in to always be ready for anything.”
As well, about 20 percent of the battalion is combat-experienced, said Tomich, and those experiences will benefit the Marines by keeping them ready for any eventuality.
“I have deployed to Iraq before but have not been out on a MEU yet, so I’m pretty excited,” said Hawken. “There will be a lot of different countries to explore and a lot of good training with our partner nations in Asia.”
In addition to scheduled exercises, 2/7 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 2/7 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 operations in Taiwan, the Republic of Indonesia, and the Republic of the Philippines. Most recently the 31st MEU was sent to assist in mainland Japan in March and April of this year, after the 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and following tsunami devastated huge areas of the coast.
2/7 is replacing 2/5, whose Marines are now headed back home to Calif., after completing a successful spring deployment with the 31st MEU.
The deployment of 2/7 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 and integrating with other elements almost immediately in preparation for the upcoming deployment.
The Marines and Sailors of 2/7 leave behind family and friends as they deploy to Okinawa and the Asia-Pacific region to serve their nation.
“My wife is staying behind while I come out here,” said Hawken. “She was very emotional about me leaving but she supports everything that I am doing.”
The 31st MEU is the nation's only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains a force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Additional photos of BLT 2/7’s arrival in Okinawa can be viewed on the 31st MEU Facebook site at www.facebook.com/31stMEU.