WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa --
Following a multi-week training exercise in the Philippines, elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team returned to their deployed home port in Okinawa, marking their last major training event before returning to the states.
Headquarters and Support Company and Company C of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st MEU, offloaded from the USS Denver (LPD-9) here after the successful completion of bilateral training Exercise Balikatan.
“It’s great to finally be back, as it always is after a deployment,” said Lance Cpl. James Patterson, rifleman with C. Co., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “The Philippine Marines were great hosts and outstanding people to train alongside.”
From April 16 through 27, the Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/4 joined elements of III Marine Expeditionary Force in training with their Philippine counterparts. The goal of the exercise was to improve interoperability among the forces involved. The training evolution included amphibious raids in combat rubber raiding craft, jungle patrols, jungle survival classes and humanitarian assistance operations.
“I don’t speak their language. If we had to work alongside the Filipino Marines in a real-world situation, without this training, that would be just one of many barriers in the way of smooth operation,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Cunningham, team leader with Co. C., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “However, this training has improved the efficiency in which we can work together and allows us to overcome those obstacles.”
With all of their Marines and Sailors returned from Exercise Balikatan, BLT 1/4 has concluded their time as the 31st MEU’s ground combat element and will return to their home in Camp Pendleton.
The unit will leave Okinawa in June, carrying with it valuable experience from training and operating throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
“Being with the 31st MEU was very beneficial to the unit, as far as getting on ship and going to training evolutions with foreign militaries,” said 1st Sgt. Jose Lugo, company first sergeant of C. Co., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “The Marines get a completely different skill set than with stateside training, especially with the new Marines whom have not had a chance to train with anyone else.”
During their tenure with the MEU, Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/4 conducted bilateral operations in four Asian countries, training alongside military forces from more than a dozen allied nations.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.