WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa, Japan -- More than 2,000 Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit offloaded from three ships of the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 here, March 21. The unit returned after spending nearly two months conducting its annual Spring Patrol.
The 31st MEU left Okinawa in late January, dividing the service members among the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and USS Germantown (LSD-42). The “Blue/Green” team headed straight for the Kingdom of Thailand in support of Cobra Gold 2013, an annual exercise that includes numerous multilateral events ranging from amphibious assaults to non-combatant evacuation operations.
“I am really glad I finally got the unique experience of working alongside my Thai Marine counterparts and learning how they operate,” said Lance Cpl. Evan M. Reese, a cryptologic linguist with the 31st MEU and a native of Austin, Texas. “The work I’ve done with the MEU these last few months has been a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
During CG 2013, the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU worked side-by-side with elements of the Royal Thai military to conduct several amphibious raids, a jungle survival course, a six-nation noncombatant evacuation operation, and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense operation. The broad range of training events is designed to increase the interoperability of the 31st MEU with allied forces.
“We participate in many theatre security operations with our allies and partners to ensure we are ready and able to respond to any crisis we may face,” said Lt. Col. Troy Roesti, the executive officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
After concluding CG 2013, the Marines and Sailors changed gears for the 31st MEU’s Certification Exercise. CERTEX is a two-week event evaluated by Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, to ensure the 31st MEU maintains proficiency in its full spectrum of capabilities for real-world operations.
During CERTEX, the service members tested their abilities in coordinated operations alongside their Navy counterparts while part of an Amphibious Ready Group at sea.
Now back to their home port, the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU will prepare to turn over the ground combat element and aviation combat element as before receiving new units. This change-over allows multiple units to experience the valuable training during MEU deployments.
“Twice each year, the 31st MEU rotates its (Battalion Landing Team) and its aviation combat element (once a year), something that is unique to the 31st MEU,” said Roesti, a native of Sherwood, Ohio. “I believe (Spring Patrol) serves to benefit those Marines and Sailors, as it gives them all (Marine Air Ground Task Force) experience which, in the end, will benefit the Marine Corps as it gets back to its amphibious roots.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.