By Lance Cpl. Breanna Weisenberger, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6), PACIFIC OCEAN -- ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6), At Sea, Pacific Ocean – Marines and Sailors with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completed Certification Exercise 17.1 at various locations around Okinawa, Japan, March 28, 2017, as a part of the 31st MEU’s 17.1 Spring Patrol.
CERTEX is the last in a series of training exercises which certify the MEU to conduct various mission sets across the full range of military operations. The air, ground and logistics combat elements of the MEU conducted scenario-based training such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, amphibious assaults, air assaults and maritime reconnaissance missions.
“We must support the MEU first and foremost, but we also have our own tasks,” said Lt. Col. Siebrand H. Niewenhous IV, commanding officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “During CERTEX, we have to go out and prove that we can perform non-combatant evacuation operations and humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions to the standards that III Marine Expeditionary Force expects us.”
CERTEX brings together the individual MEU elements, training them to effectively respond to specific crisis situations. Every patrol the 31st MEU has to endure through a lengthy and arduous workup process. The training cycle starts before the MEU embarks aboard the ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group with Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise, to refine processes and build interoperability. The next stage of training, Amphibious Integrated Training, occurs on ship, where the MEU integrates Navy assets and sailors into their missions.
“We do all of our missions before we get evaluated, and we follow a crawl-walk-run plan,” said Master Sgt. Anthony W. Ovitt, operations chief for CLB-31, 31st MEU. “We begin training during MEUEX, when we get the new Battalion Landing Team, and we rehearse all of these missions before we even get on ship.
Amphibious integration training is the walk stage, where we do an internal evaluation of all those mission sets. And last is CERTEX, that’s the run phase where we get evaluated by the Expeditionary Operation Training Group.”
The air-ground task force concept is designed to thoroughly exploit the combat power inherent in air and ground assets by closely integrating them into a single force under one commander. The MEU brings what it needs to sustain itself from the sea for the rapid accomplishment of the mission or to pave the way for follow-on forces. The size and composition of the MEU makes it well suited for amphibious operations, security operations, noncombatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance operations, and special operations.