CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- A U.S. Embassy, distressed over an increase of aggression by a local group of radicals, initiated a request for assistance to the U.S. State Department. This request was quickly transformed into an order and relayed to the Department of Defense: Send in the Marines.
This was the training scenario for Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, as they conducted a non-combatant evacuation operation here, June 3. The complicated operation can be used in numerous situations to include natural disasters and civil unrest, making the mission a realistic possibility the unit must be prepared for.
“The whole goal when we set up and operate a NEO is to help all the citizens, whether they are American or a local national citizens, and evacuate them out of the region safely,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony A. Davis, the Evacuation Control Center site chief with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Manhattan, N.Y. “As the force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific, the 31st MEU has to be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently. Every second counts during a crisis.”
The NEO exercise processed and evacuated more than 20 role players through the ECC, which is a collection of tents used to search, identify, and process the citizens for transportation out of the dangerous area.
“Conducting this training allows us to become more familiar with the procedures during the evacuation process,” said Sgt. Daniel McGhee, a squad leader with Landing Support, CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Detroit. “There are several stations and procedures that are involved with the NEO and cannot all be learned in the classroom; this has to be shown.”
The process of getting evacuees through an ECC consists of four key stations: receiving, search, registration and embarkation.
Military police conduct hasty searches for dangerous objects at an initial entry point and then escort the evacuees to a receiving area for a short brief to familiarize them with the process. It is here that the evacuees are separated, by nationality, to be processed through the ECC.
Next, the evacuees are escorted from the receiving area to the search station. Inside this tent, the evacuees thoroughly searched via pat down and metal detector. This station ensures dangerous and illegal items such as weapons, explosives or narcotics do not make it aboard the evacuation vehicles.
Registration follows the search area, where evacuees fill out paperwork necessary to be added to manifests and entered into a tracking system. The NEO Tracking System is used to ensure accurate accountability of citizens after evacuation.
Once their paperwork is in order, evacuees are escorted to the embarkation area. This is the final station in the process, where they await transportation for evacuation. During this training exercise, a bus was used to transport the role players to a notional site. In a real NEO, Marine helicopters could be used to transport the evacuees to the U.S. Navy ships the 31st MEU deploys from. These amphibious ships can provide evacuees with billeting, sustainment, and medical care, if necessary.
“The NEO provides the (U.S. Ambassador) a means of protecting and evacuating U.S. and local national citizens from a dangerous situation,” said 1st Lt. Wesley Jackson, the landing support platoon commander with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Mountainburg, Ark. “There is always a chance of us having to use this capability in a real situation during a deployment. The Ambassador has to know that he can rely on his Marines to get the job done.”
The NEO exercise was a part of the 31st MEU’s pre-deployment training for their upcoming patrol. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.