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    US Marines return to Okinawa after patrolling the Asia-Pacific

    US Marines return to Okinawa after patrolling Asia-Pacific Sea

    Photo By Cpl. Ryan Mains | U.S. Marines stage their gear in the hangar bay of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei 

    31st Marine Expeditionary Unit       

    OKINAWA, Japan - U.S. Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Okinawa April 4 after completing a two-month patrol throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

    During the deployment, the 31st MEU was embarked aboard the forward-deployed USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and USS Ashland (LSD 48).

    The unit completed a theater security cooperation event in Malaysia, Certification Exercises around Okinawa, and integrated with Marines from the Republic of Korea during Korean Marine Exchange Program 15.

    “The MEU’s role during this patrol was to provide a crisis and contingency response force for the geographic combatant commander for any need during the entire time we were embarked,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Brady, the operations officer for the 31st MEU.

    The 31st MEU conducts two regularly-scheduled patrols each year, and this patrol included many firsts.

    In Malaysia, the Marines executed an amphibious-based air-ground demonstration for several members of the Malaysian armed forces with Malaysian and U.S. government officials also in attendance.

    “This patrol was the first time the 31st MEU has operated in Malaysia, and the demonstration opens the door for a long-term partnership with a new nation here in the theater,” said Brady, from Fairfax, Virginia. “After Malaysia, we also landed the first MV-22B Osprey on the ROK ship, Dokdo.”

    The ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111), commissioned in July 2007, is the premiere Landing Platform Helicopter ship in the ROK Navy fleet. Two Ospreys with the 31st MEU’s aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), took off from the USS Bonhomme Richard and flew to the ROKS Dokdo on March 26, making several routine landings during the evolution.

    The patrol also provided an opportunity for the Marines to take a break from regular operations during a liberty port-call in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. While here, Marines toured local eateries and markets, went white-water rafting and snorkeling, and a brave few climbed the towering Mount Kinabalu.

    “It was a lot of Marines' and Sailors’ first time in Malaysia and it was a lot of fun,” said Lance Cpl. Sigfredo Garcia Jr., a training clerk with the 31st MEU’s command element. “We got to see a unique culture and interact with the locals and just experience a part of their life.”

    While ashore in South Korea, the MEU trained side-by-side with ROK Marines during KMEP 15. The bilateral force completed mountain warfare training, held urban combat exercises and live-fire events at several locations near Pohang before concluding with a combined amphibious landing,

    “There are so many moving parts to the MEU,” said Sgt. Maj. Max A. Garcia, the sergeant major for Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, and a native of Morningside, Maryland. “Aircraft and vehicles are constantly coming and going with supply and personnel, but because of the level of proficiency and professionalism from the Marines with the MEU, there were no major safety mishaps or liberty incidents during (this patrol)."

    For many, this was the first time working with others outside of their unit and job fields.

    “While on ship, I was able to meet different Marines from the (air-ground task force), and I was able to see things I normally wouldn’t see,” said Lance Cpl. Garcia, from East Windsor, New Jersey. “It was the first time I saw Ospreys, Hueys and jets take off from the flight deck as well as the amphibious assault vehicle, (landing craft, utility and the landing craft, air cushion) leaving the ship.”

    Another 31st MEU accomplishment was landing two Ospreys for the first time at United States Fleet Activity, Sasebo. This “proof of concept” flight reduces the logistics chain while increasing readiness and crisis response time for missions like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

    “We are America’s expeditionary force in readiness, and we’re always ready, even when others may not be ready,” said Brady. “Particularly in this (Asia-Pacific) area of operations, we have several contingencies that we are able to respond to at a moment’s notice, whether it’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or some other form of crisis response.”

    The 31st MEU, based out of Okinawa, Japan, is the Marine Corps’ only continually forward-deployed MEU. With the completion of Spring Patrol ‘15, the 31st MEU is already making preparations for the upcoming Fall Patrol ‘15.



    Date Taken: 04.07.2015
    Date Posted: 04.16.2015 15:00
    Story ID: 160209
    Location: OKINAWA, JP
    Hometown: EAST WINDSOR, NJ, US
    Hometown: FAIRFAX, VA, US
    Hometown: MORNINGSIDE, MD, US

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