By Lance Cpl. Jonah Baase, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
OKINAWA, JAPAN --
WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa, Japan – The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 11, aboard the ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, completed their regularly-scheduled deployment of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and have returned to White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.
Embarked aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and USS Ashland (LSD 48), the 31st MEU departed White Beach for the waters off the east coast of Australia, June 8, 2017.
The 31st MEU, composed of a Command Element, Ground Combat Element: Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Logistics Combat Element: Combat Logistics Battalion 31, and Aviation Combat Element: Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) with Marine Attack Squadron 311, is a forward deployed, flexible air-ground-logistics team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions.
During the deployment, the 31st MEU conducted Talisman Saber, a U.S.-Australian bilateral exercise held every two years. Talisman Saber gave Marines and Sailors the opportunity to work alongside the Australian Defence Force and solidify the long-lasting alliance between the two nations.
"Working with our allies and partners has been extremely valuable,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “Talisman Saber offered a unique opportunity to increase our interoperability with the Australians."
The 31st MEU conducted a variety of amphibious operations during the exercise, including a beach assault, multiple amphibious raids, simulated noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) and humanitarian assistance-disaster relief (HADR) missions – all launched from the sea requiring the coordinated work of the more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors that comprise the command.
"It is exercises like Talisman Saber that enable the 31st MEU to be prepared to respond to contingencies throughout the region,” said Wallace. “We will remain forward, flexible and ready to face any crisis, and we have been grateful for the opportunity to work with our close allies."
The 31st MEU and PHIRBON 11 also conducted a continuous series of unit-level training and exercises, including MEU Exercise, Amphibious Integration Training, and Certification Exercise. Marines and Sailors performed MEUEX and AIT to refine their mission planning and execution abilities, ensuring that during CERTEX the 31st MEU could work efficiently on short notice. With the completion of CERTEX, the 31st MEU was certified as fully capable of conducting the military tasks required to respond to crises in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility.
After CERTEX, the USS Ashland (LSD 48) sailed to Guam for scheduled maintenance. The 31st MEU made use of the training opportunities and facilities available, including a variety of live-fire ranges, military operations in urbanized terrain facilities and joint training with the US Army.
While not participating in exercises or training, the Marines and Sailors of the BHR ESG took the opportunity to visit cities in Guam and Australia, giving the Marines and Sailors time to relax and build relationships in the local communities. The BHR ESG visited Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, and Tumon in Guam. During port calls, the U.S. Department of State organized community relations events to allow the Marines and Sailors of the BHR ESG to engage with local schools and groups.
Upon returning to Okinawa, the 31st MEU maintains the ability to rapidly respond to crises within the region while training and preparing for the next deployment.
“The Marines and Sailors performed with exceptional professionalism during training and liberty throughout the deployment,” said Wallace. “It is good to return home to Okinawa. We will remain vigilant as a regional crisis response force in garrison, always ready to accomplish any assigned mission.”