White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan -- Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on three ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 to begin their annual Spring Patrol and journey to the Kingdom of Thailand for exercise Cobra Gold 2013, Jan 30.
For more than three decades, the United States has participated in the multilateral training exercise Cobra Gold, where more than a dozen countries participate in a two weeks-long training regimen to strengthen relationships and interoperability.
“The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU are excited about participating in exercise Cobra Gold,” said Lt. Col. Troy Roesti, the executive officer of the 31st MEU and a native of Sherwood, Ohio. “Although it is the 32nd iteration of the exercise, for many Marines it is their first Cobra Gold experience. It is a great opportunity for them to participate in theater security cooperation exercises and will serve to benefit them later in their Marine Corps career.”
The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and the USS Germantown (LSD-42) will transport and partner with every element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force during the regularly scheduled deployment. . Above and below their decks rest CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, AV-8B Harriers, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, M23 7-ton trucks, M-777A2 Howitzers, and many other types of weapons and equipment.
The three ships house roughly 2,200 Marines and Sailors of the MEU that comprise the command element, ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment; the logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion-31; and the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced).
“Deploying on ship is a great way to maintain the Marine to Navy relationship we have had for the past 238 years,” said Sgt. Filiberto Carrill, a non-commissioned officer in charge of the maintenance platoon,CLB-31, 31st MEU and a native of El Paso, Texas.
As the 31st MEU gears up for Cobra Gold 2013, the meaning of the exercise is not lost in the excitement of visiting a foreign country. Through such exercises, stronger relationships between foreign nations are forged, benefiting everyone involved.
“This is my second float (with the 31st MEU), so I am excited to get back out and train alongside our Thai counterparts,” said Lance Cpl. Luis A. Pena, motor transportation non-commissioned officer-in-charge for the communications detachment, CE, 31st MEU, and a native of Cape Coral, Fla.
Over the next several days, the 31st MEU will be conducting Amphibious Integration Training with PHIBRON 11 to fully integrate the “blue and green team” prior to beginning the exercise.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.