CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in a disaster relief training exercise here Oct. 10.
“One of our most likely missions in this area of operation is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Lt. Col. William E. Arick, commanding officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “In recent history, we have responded to five disasters in the Pacific region.”
The 31st MEU must complete various training exercises before it is certified for contingency missions. The disaster relief exercise is one of the final tests before the MEU is certified, according to Arick.
The ability to operate and deliver goods to local populations in foreign countries is critical for the MEU, according to 1st Lt. George W. Goddard, the assistant officer-in-charge for the Special Missions Branch, Special Operations Training Group, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF.
“This helps prepare the Marines for when they have to do this in a real-life situation because they will know what they need to do,” said Goddard.
For the MEU’s certification, Marines from various units under Marine Corps Installations Pacific have been assigned as actors and role players to simulate a local population Marines would encounter in a foreign country.
“The Marines performed really well during the training today,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jorge Careaga, motor transport chief, CLB-31. “Everybody was able to adapt to various changes which arose. I have been with this unit for about a year now, and we are constantly training to be able to perform disaster relief missions like the ones we conducted during Operation Tomodachi. Nobody likes when a disaster devastates an area, but when it happens, we will be there ready to handle the situation and provide relief to those in need.”
To assist the victims during the training, the MEU was able to use various methods including trucks and helicopters to carry pallets of relief supplies.
“One of the unique things the MEU is able to do is employ multiple methods to deliver supplies to those in need,” said Arick. “We can have landing craft come in from the sea or aircraft fly into remote locations. We also have the ability to produce water and electricity, and we have heavy equipment which can be used to clear debris.”
According to Careaga, disaster relief is one of the key missions of the 31st MEU and the MEU is constantly training to be ready to react to a disaster.
“This training is important because tsunamis and earthquakes have been happening all over the world lately, and the MEU will be ready and able to respond to those catastrophes,” said Goddard.