CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and subordinate units, Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, wrap up two weeks of crisis response readiness missions in support of MEU Exercise (MEUEX) here, July 30, 2020.
MEUEX, a key part of how the 31st MEU maintains readiness as a crisis response force, is the first time that the air combat element (ACE), ground combat element (GCE) and logistic combat element (LCE) had the opportunity to come together as a full Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to plan and execute missions.
“MEUEX is the crawl phase of the exercises the MEU conducts right after we composite as a MAGTF. It’s where we all get familiar with each other and practice each of the core training objectives with just Marines,” said Master Sgt. Steven Whiteman, the 31st MEU’s assistant operations chief.
The MEU planned and executed the full list of training objectives using the rapid response planning process, designed to enable the MAGTF to complete planning in just six hours. After completing the planning, the MEU executed missions ranging from humanitarian aid and foreign nation non-combatant evacuation, to various types of small boat, aviation and assault amphibious raids.
“It was awe-inspiring to see the members of the 31st MEU team come together so quickly to plan and execute our mission essential tasks,” said Maj. Brenden Neagle, BLT 2/4’s operations officer. “During MEUEX 20.2, the Marines and
Sailors of the 31st MEU tirelessly trained toward that goal, developed shared operating procedures, integrated our planning processes with adjacent and supporting elements, and remained laser-focused on remaining brilliant in the basics.”
MEUEX is the first time many subordinate unit leaders were exposed to the rapid planning process, bringing them together to share ideas, draw on the experiences and collaborate on the bigger mission. “During MEUEX, ask questions and don’t be afraid to tell someone you don’t know or don’t understand. The MEU is a learning organization and MEUEX is an important time to get acclimated to the tempo and excellence of the 31st MEU,” Said Whiteman.
The two weeks of planning and executing missions as a team provided critical training for every section of the 31st MEU. “One of the things that makes the Marine Corps so special is our recognition that proper employment of the complimentary capabilities resident in our GCE, LCE, and ACE makes the team’s lethality much greater than the sum of its individual parts,” said Neagle.
In order to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, additional force health protection measures were implemented and training continued. BLT 2/4 tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel team conducted an overland rescue and recovery mission. CLB 31 set up a mobile non-combatant evacuation facility utilizing the NEO tracking system. Around Okinawa, VMM 262 (REIN) transported Marines, cargo and participated in live fire demonstrations.
“MEUEX provides us the first opportunity to bring together this composited task force and rehearse generating MAGTF solutions to MAGTF problems,” said Col. Michael Nakonieczny, the new commanding officer of the 31st MEU. MEUEX 20.2 was the first exercise the 31st MEU has conducted with Nakonieczny at the helm.
“As Marines, we strive to better ourselves and our MEU everyday. We learn from each mission, we learn from eachother, and we constantly adapt to the challenges we face. Through MEUEX, we hone our ability to integrate the different elements of the MAGTF and make ourselves more lethal and agile.”
In regards to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nakonieczny remarked, “We continue to enforce all proper health protection orders, but we will not cease in our preparations to respond to global crises. The 31st MEU remains ready to assure allies, deter aggression, and if need be fight and win, even in a global pandemic.”
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region. The 31st MEU has implemented strict health protection measures and will continue to conduct essential training in support of regional security and stability.