KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa, Japan --
More than 100 Marines and Sailors stepped on to the Kadena Air Base flight line, eagerly exiting the steel capsule that housed them for approximately 16 hours. This group represents the first of multiple waves of Marines and Sailors, eventually ending with more than 1,000 new members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Initial portions of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., touched down on Okinawa, heralding the battalion’s rotation as the 31st MEU’s battalion landing team, May 22.
“A good portion of us have deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, but this part of the world is new to pretty much all of us,” said Lance Cpl. Jaron A. Jackson, supply administrator with Headquarters and Service Company, 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Roanoke, Va. “The morale is about as high as the humidity here; the next six months will be different than anything else we’ve experienced, but we’re ready for the training.”
The Marines and Sailors of 2/4 arrive with sights set on strengthening and expanding their skill sets. While on the 31st MEU, the battalion is scheduled for training much different from OEF/OIF workups. In garrison, they will train in jungle warfare, while their upcoming Asia-Pacific deployment will provide experience in ship-to-shore operations working alongside the Navy.
“Our main focus is on contingency planning for this area of operation, because being on a MEU means being ready for anything,” said 1st Lt. Scott J. Weibling, executive officer of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, attached to 2/4, and a native of Oklahoma City, Okla. “Crisis response and partnerships with ally nations will be our bread-and-butter here, and we intend to get the most out of our six months here.”
The incoming battalion, known as the “Magnificent Bastards,” has a storied history beginning in World War I. The battalion has participated in every major combat involvement except for the Korean War and proudly boasts six Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Last year, 2/4 served in Afghanistan as a part of Regimental Combat Team-6, where they provided key coalition support in the Now Zad and Musa Qal’ah districts.
The outgoing battalion, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, known as Geronimo, is leaving the 31st MEU after completing a six-month rotation including a deployment to the Kingdom of Thailand in support of exercise Cobra Gold 2013. Their time in the Asia-Pacific as a battalion landing team with the 31st MEU provided valuable experience for the future.
“For most of the Marines here, this was their first exposure to amphibious operations with the rest of the Marine Corps, primarily focused on sustainment operations on shore in the Middle East,” said Lt. Col. Terry M. Johnson, commanding officer of 1/5, and a native of Palo Pinto, Texas. “What has made the Marine Corps great is that we’re relevant; we have an expeditionary mindset that prepares us to be ready for anything, wherever and in whatever climate it happens in. The Marines learned that by being attached to the 31st MEU and will take that with them.”
Within the week, the rest of 2/4 will arrive on island while 1/5 returns to Camp Pendleton. The “Magnificent Bastards” will then begin preparations for the 31st MEU’s next scheduled deployment as the ground combat element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force on the MEU.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.