News: III MEF leaders discuss priorities
Story by Lance Cpl. Michael Iams and Pfc. Mike Granahan
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Bases Japan senior leaders held a two-day commanders’ conference at the Butler Officers’ Club on Plaza Housing Sept. 8-9.
The conference’s goal was to provide III MEF/MCBJ leadership with information about military involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a forum to discuss and develop programs and plans to ensure the safety and readiness of Marines and sailors on Okinawa.
The conference began with Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., III Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general and Marine Corps Bases Japan commander, speaking about III MEF’s contributions to the U.S.-Japan alliance and providing guidance for the road ahead. During Operation Tomadachi, III MEF proved that when a crisis situation strikes, Marines respond quickly and are ready to get the job done, Glueck told the gathered leaders.
Operation Tomadachi, the U.S. humanitarian and disaster relief response to the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that rocked mainland Japan March 11, demonstrated the value of III MEF’s unique capability and strategic location, he said.
“When we did [Operation] Tomadachi, we all had to get out of our comfort zones,” he said.
“The crisis on mainland was a complex crisis: an earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear disaster, something we’ve never seen before. We were out the door in 18 hours moving supplies, personnel and equipment up north,” said Glueck.
Through Operation Tomadachi, III MEF showed it is a force in readiness able to respond to any threat in its area of responsibility, he said.
“It shows that the training that we’re doing out here really works,” said Glueck.
This same training will be valuable to other units in the Marine Corps, which coincides with the commandant’s priorities, he said.
This means resuming the unit deployment program on Okinawa, allowing infantry units to rotate through for training, he said.
“The faster that we can work together to put together those plans to get our [Marine Air-Ground Task Forces] put back together out here, get our battalions back out here, get our squadrons back out here...the better off we are going to be,” Glueck said.
Okinawa is a great location and platform for training throughout the region.
“I think we’ve made some great progress,” Glueck said. “We have nearly 70 exercises that we’re working on an annual basis right now. The last nine months have been extremely busy.”
At the conference, subject matter experts presented topics for the senior leaders to discuss, including the “Beating the Blues” program, alcohol-abuse prevention, sexual-assault prevention and changes to the liberty campaign plan.
The “Beating the Blues” program, which begins just before the holiday season, is designed to educate Marines about issues people commonly deal with during the holidays.
“We want to reach out to the Marines throughout the holiday season and give them activities that will prevent the ‘Blues’ they may be feeling,” said Bill Linnehan, Marine Corps community service’s chief for Marine and Family Services.
During the alcohol-abuse presentation, the expert discussed sending the right message to Marines and sailors about the use of alcohol and proposed questions and solutions to the senior leaders of III MEF.
“How can we get the Marines comfortable with talking about things like this?” asked Rachel DiStefano, suicide prevention specialist with the MCCS Counseling and Advocacy Program.
DiStenfano proposed new ways to try and get Marines involved and comfortable with not only identifying problems but also reporting them if they occur.
The combat-operational stress presentation talked about preventing, identifying and treating mental injuries and stress of Marines and sailors, and ensuring troops suffering from combat-operational stress are given the same attention as physical injuries.
During the conference, III MEF senior leaders also talked about the new liberty campaign.
The new liberty campaign provides an opportunity for outstanding lance corporals to receive a gold card and empowers non-commissioned officers and petty officers to take charge and help reduce misconduct throughout the island, explained Brig. Gen. Craig Q Timberlake, deputy commanding general, III MEF and commanding general 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III MEF.
III MEF/MCBJ senior leaders left the conference ready to forge ahead with III MEF’s responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region and ensure Marines and sailors remain safe and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.