31st MEU Back In Okinawa After Cobra Gold, MAREX, Operation Tomodachi

WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, OKINAWA, Japan; The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Okinawa after its nearly three-month deployment of the Asia-Pacific Region, April 12, 2011.

Along with USS Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group, the MEU visited the Kingdom of Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia, Malaysia and mainland Japan.

The deployment began January 24, 2011, when the MEU left White Beach Naval Facility and traveled to Thailand to participate in exercise Cobra Gold 2011. During the exercise, bilateral training was conducted between the Royal Thai military and service members of the MEU. Training events included an amphibious landing, mechanized raid and a noncombatant evacuation operation.

Less than 48 hours after leaving Thailand, Marines and sailors stepped off of U.S. Navy landing craft in Cambodia for Cambodian Maritime Exercise. The week-long training evolution included bilateral lane training with the Royal Cambodian military, and a Medical Civil Action Project. The MEDCAP treated approximately 3,000 patients in just three days.

The unit was slated to participate in Balikatan 2012 in April, however due to the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, the MEU spent its last three weeks of the deployment participating in relief efforts as a part of Operation Tomodachi. Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 supported Operation “Field Day”, when the major subordinate commands helped clean-up the island of Oshima. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (reinforced), delivered thousands of pounds of supplies to effected regions. The Marines and sailors delivered more than 15,000 pounds of relief supplies to the island. In total the MEU and ARG moved more than 160,000 pounds of supplies.

“It was a really rewarding experience for the Marines and sailors to do all that they did throughout the deployment. The opportunity meant a lot to everyone who participated,” said LtCol Pete Farnum, commanding officer for Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “That’s one of the best things about a Marine Expeditionary Unit is its flexibility and ability to respond to situations such as in mainland Japan.”

To stay prepared for future operations, BLT 2/5 will changeover with incoming BLT 2/7 as the MEU’s ground combat element and Marine Medium Helicopter 262 (Reinforced) will be replaced with HMM-265.

The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based force capable of responding to a wide range of contingencies as directed.