USS ESSEX, At Sea --
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has embarked Navy ships in order to conduct amphibious integration training and a follow on certification exercise before continuing the deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.
Aboard the USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Denver (LPD-9) and USS Tortuga (LSD-46) with Amphibious Squadron 11, the 31st MEU, including Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (REIN), will be executing a variety of training scenarios to prepare for crisis response.
In order to be ready for the exercise and then any follow-on tasking, 2,200 Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU boarded the ships, along with dozens of helicopters, hundreds of vehicles and thousands of tons of cargo.
“Our Navy and Marine Corps team came together and accomplished the mission of loading the 31st MEU aboard the three ships of the Amphibious Ready Group,” said Lt. Col. Brian Hawkins, operations officer for the 31st MEU. “Now we can go into our amphibious integration at sea, which prepares us for our coming certification exercise.”
Following the successful multi-lateral training exercise Cobra Gold 2012 in the Kingdom of Thailand, the 31st MEU will rehearse their raid, assault and humanitarian operations with evaluators from the Special Operations Training Group. Utilizing their aircraft and amphibious assault vehicle capabilities, the Marines and Sailors will conduct such exercises as mechanized raids and noncombatant evacuation operations and visit, board, search, seizure on-ship.
Another important part of the upcoming training is the fact that, without the seamless integration the Marines and Sailors have cultivated, the exercises would not be as successful.
“It is always exciting working alongside our Navy counterparts,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “The blue and green team did an excellent job executing the load plan in a safe and timely manner.”
While some Marines, tenured by their time with the MEU and previous units, may have participated some of these practice missions before, they all recognize the importance of continual practice when dealing with multi-national exercises.
“Although we recently did the same thing in Thailand, we’re going to keep training so we are able to smoothly run these operations in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. John Rudd, explosive ordnance disposal team leader with CLB 31, 31st MEU. “As for CERTEX, it’s like doing a yearly physical fitness test: even though we constantly work out, there has to be that tested occasion for accreditation.”
For the next few weeks, the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU will be perfecting their amphibious operations skills, justifying their position as the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.