SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia -- With one knee resting on the crusty, dry soil, the Marine peered down the road and watched as the loose dirt broke apart under the weight of the approaching trucks. As the trucks passed, destined for the nearby community, he could see their beds were loaded with food, water and medical supplies. The Marine logistics team was on the scene and the people would now receive the assistance they requested.
Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, both of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted humanitarian assistance training as part of the 31st MEU’s Certification Exercise here, Aug. 9.
The HA mission was designed to test the 31st MEU’s ability to assist a community cut off from food, water, and medical attention. Tasked to assess the situation and provide assistance, the 31st MEU sent their logistics combat element armed with everything a community would need to maintain their health, crops and structures.
“The (HA) mission provides the local civilians the necessary supplies they would need to sustain their everyday life, including: food, water, gas, shelter and electricity,” said 1st Lt. Jake M. Sharry, the humanitarian assistance officer in charge with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Boston, Mass. “It is the most likely mission the 31st MEU will face because we are in the Asia-Pacific region where typhoons are known to cause problems.”
In order to begin assisting the notionally distressed population, role-played by other Marines, the HA team first established a distribution site. The LCE quickly erected a series of stations using vehicles and existing structures for distributing supplies and managing relief efforts. For the protection of the personnel and equipment, concertina wire was placed around the perimeter while the military police team searched every civilian who entered the site.
“When we are conducting the hasty search at the entrance, we are looking for big ticket items that could be a danger to others,” said Sgt. Michael D. Mansholt, the military police platoon sergeant with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. “We’re looking for weapons, drugs and any other contraband that could cause harm.”
After the search is complete, civilians needing medical attention were escorted to the medical station where Navy corpsmen with CLB-31 diagnosed and treated health problems. If the conditions were beyond the capacity of the makeshift facility, a helicopter was available to transport the patient to the USS Bohomme Richard (LHD 6) for further treatment.
Individuals who did not need medical care moved directly from the search area to the food and water distribution station. The Marines at this station handed out a three day supply of potable water and food for each person.
“By handing out the food and water, I am able to interact with the role-players and improve my interpersonal skills,” said Cpl. Luis D. Ramirez, a motor transportation operator with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of West Valley, Utah. “(This scenario) gives us an awesome chance to train for a real life situation where we can lend a helping hand to those in need.”
The ability to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief is one of many capabilities the 31st MEU tests during CERTEX, ensuring preparedness for any contingency the unit may face while patrolling the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward deployed MEU.