TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands --
Hitting the beach in amphibious assault vehicles, Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit began a methodical assault and seizure operation deep in the jungle environment of Tinian of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Marines and Sailors of Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 31st MEU, neutralized the enemy presence on the same soil their World War II forefathers fought on during an amphibious assault exercise here, Sept. 12 through 14.
The training evolution was the first event of the 31st MEU’s Fall Patrol, a refreshment of Marine Air Ground Task Force integration before conducting bilateral training throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
E. Co., known as “Mech” Co., operates with the BLT’s AAV asset and is able to conduct hard-hitting ship-to-shore operations. With more armor than helicopters and more maneuverability than combat rubber raiding craft, Mech Co. was assigned for the Tinian scenario.
“AAVs are able to provide heavy suppression with the ability to operate in the water as well in rough terrain,” said Cpl. James Connell, field radio operator with BLT 2/1, 31st MEU and a native of Redondo Beach, Calif. “Not only that, they can carry enough supplies to last in the field without resupply for a couple of days. They’re self-sustaining, mobile armaments able to go pretty much anywhere to accomplish the mission.”
The company was tasked with regaining control of an enemy-held airfield and defending it against counterattacks over the course of three days. The airfield seizure was not only the initial event of the MEU’s pre-deployment evolution, but the exercise held great historical significance as well.
“Not only are the Marines getting good training out of the days-long exercise, but they’re on an island with historical significance for the war in the Pacific in WWII,” said 2nd Lt. Richard Meldrum, platoon commander for 3rd platoon, Co. E., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU and a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “It’s been a long time since training of this sort was conducted on Tinian, so the guys are getting a lot more out of this than our usual training.”
Following the Battle of Tinian in 1944, the island’s airfields were heavily used by B-29 Superfortress bombers to conduct aerial operations. Eventually, the airfields were used to launch the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan to surrender to the US which the Pacific theater campaign.
“We were able to do a multi-day field op in the jungle and then later we saw some memorials on the island from WWII,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Herrera, squad automatic weapon gunner with 2nd plt., Co. E., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU and a native of Austin, Texas. “It’s been a great opportunity all around and something I’ll remember for a long time to come.”
Following the operations on Tinian, Mech Co. returned to the USS Denver (LPD-9) to continue their deployment with the 31st MEU throughout the Northern Mariana Islands.
The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.