CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
Japan Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto presented a plaque to Col. Andrew R. MacMannis, the commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, May 28, thanking him for the 31st MEU’s help during Operation Tomodachi.
During the operation, the 31st MEU delivered more than 164,000 pounds of supplies and 7,430 gallons of water to areas in North-East Japan affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the country.
One of the main areas where the 31st MEU operated was Oshima Island, which had hundreds of buildings destroyed. The mission was named Operation Field Day, and about 300 Marines and Sailors worked sun-up to sun-down, in temperatures often below freezing, clearing debris.
“It was a really rewarding experience,” said Cpl. Nathan R. Johnson, a staff judge advocate assistant with the 31st MEU. “What happened there was terrible, but to be able to go in and help out so many people is something you never forget. The people were so thankful, that even as they worked they would stop what they were doing and thank us for our help.”
Though the Marines of the 31st MEU would never ask for recognition, they say it always makes them feel good to know that their work is appreciated.
“The Marines worked extremely hard helping the residents of Oshima Island, and helping to ensure the aerial deliveries were made,” said MacMannis. “Whether they were filling water jugs, loading helicopters, or actually on the ground moving debris, this was a team effort and everyone contributed. To be recognized for our work makes everyone feel even better about what we accomplished on Oshima Island.”
The MEU operated in several areas throughout Northeast Japan, delivering aid to five cities, one island and one Japanese naval ship.
The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation's force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.