POHANG, South Korea -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has begun its participation in the large-scale amphibious training of Exercise Ssang Yong 2014, but it does so in pieces.
Elements of the 31st MEU participated in a simulated forcible entry operation here March 31, serving multiple roles as part of the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, remained under the command of the 31st MEU as part of the MEB’s ground combat element, Regimental Landing Team 31. Combat Logistics Battalion 31 became a part of the MEB’s Combat Logistics Regiment 3, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) joined other aviation elements in forming Marine Aircraft Group 13, under the command of the 13th MEU.
“Each of our subordinate commands played a vital role in the MEB successfully exercising its forcible entry capability on multiple fronts,” said Capt. John M. VanLant, operations planning officer for RLT-31, and a native of Fullerton, Calif.
Company E., BLT 2/5, conducted an amphibious assault on Dogu Beach alongside a force of Republic of Korea Marines. Simultaneously, Company G., BLT 2/5, executed a vertical assault at a simulated enemy airfield.
CLB-31 landed the same day to establish a command center at Pier Nine and support the logistic needs of ground forces. VMM-265 (REIN) provided aviation support with troop insertions and simulated close air support to MEB ground forces.
But these actions by the 31st MEU’s subordinate units were just a part of the much larger MEB operation. At numerous other locations, coordinated and simultaneous operations were carried out by BLTs 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines; as well as elements of 1st Tank Battalion, 4th Tank Battalion, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Additional aviation missions were led by MAG 13 and logistical operations were run by CLR 3 to make this year’s exercise the largest iteration in the history of Ssang Yong with more than 13,000 combined U.S. and ROK forces. The scale of the operation is precisely why the 31st MEU was integrated into the MEB.
“The MEB is the appropriate sized unit for forcible entry operations,” said Col. John E. Merna, commanding officer of RLT-31, 3d MEB, and a native of Prince Georges County, Md.
The missions given to the 31st MEU’s elements during Ssang Yong were tailored to the amphibious capabilities of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. The amphibious assaults are fundamental to Marine Corps’ ground combat capabilities.
As the exercise moves forward, the MEB will showcase the flexibility and combat power of Marine Expeditionary forces in maintaining forward momentum and introducing follow-on forces.
“We provide forcible entry from the sea and a rapid influx of combat power,” said Capt. Travis W. Bowden, current operations officer for RLT-31, and a native of Mechanicsville, Va. “It’s not just poking a hole, but ripping it open to exploit the enemy’s vulnerabilities.”
The coming week of training will integrate U.S. and ROK forces for the remainder of amphibious operations. Ssang Yong is intended to strengthen ROK-US combat readiness and combined interoperability, and advance the command and control capabilities of the ROK Marine Corps through combined amphibious operations.