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NEWS | Dec. 23, 2021

Always Ready; the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completes MEU Exercise

By 2nd Lt. Alana Stern 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

CAMP HANSEN, JAPAN, Okinawa -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and subordinate units, Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5), Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, honed their warfighting capabilities, refined their standing operating procedures and validated their ability to respond to crisis during a MEU Exercise (MEUEX) in Okinawa, from Dec. 6 to Dec. 17, 2021.

Over the two weeks of training, more than 2,275 Marines and sailors rehearsed tactics, techniques and procedures for conducting crisis response missions. MEUEX is an essential part of how the 31st MEU sustains readiness and continues to improve each element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force’s interoperability.

“The MEU conducts MEUEX after compositing as a MAGTF. It’s where we amass our forces, perfect our skills across the warfighting functions, mutually improve tactical skills and project our combat power,” said Sgt. Maj. Joshua Smith, the 31st MEU’s sergeant major. “It’s truly motivating to see our Marines and sailors operating as a lethal force.”

The MEU planned and executed its ten mission essential tasks using the rapid response planning process. This process is designed to enable the MAGTF to complete planning within six hours of the MEU executing a range of missions, to include: humanitarian aid, non-combatant evacuations, and various types of raids, reconnaissance and surveillance operations, forward arming and refueling point operations and crisis response operations.

“As a response force, rehearsals sharpen our efficiency,” said Maj. Keegan R. Kinkade, BLT 1/5’s Operations Officer. “This exercise enhanced interoperability amongst all elements of the MEU, deepening the mutual understanding of each other’s capabilities, equipment, and tactical employment.”

MEUEX provides the MEU with the opportunity to rehearse and refine capabilities that directly support the family of naval concepts including Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and Distributed Maritime Operations. For example, VMM 265 (REIN) experimented with establishment of forward arming and refueling operations in jungle terrain, providing the capability to support both MEU aircraft and joint airpower operating throughout the first island chain.

“The forward arming and refueling point (FARP) operations we executed over MEUEX extended the time on station for the attack helicopters escorting the assault support aircraft in the Helicopter Raid by allowing them to refuel closer to the fight,” said 1st Lt. William M. Martin, the FARP mission commander with Marine Air Control Group 18 Detachment. “This is the first time we’ve executed a FARP over MEUEX and demonstrated that we are able to persist and operate within a tactical environment.”

Additionally, BLT 1/5 practiced tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel as well as an embassy reinforcement. CLB-31 established a mobile non-combatant evacuation facility, rehearsed foreign humanitarian assistance and conducted a mass casualty evacuation. VMM-265 (REIN) transported Marines and cargo around the island in support of the operations.

Over the exercise, the planning and execution of missions as a team provided critical training for every section of the 31st MEU. “The MEU trains to the highest standard, preparing us to respond to a variety of circumstances, during competition or conflict, in support of fleet maneuver,” said Kinkade.

“MEUEX provides us the opportunity to sustain and re-validate our readiness to deploy at a moment’s notice to crises and contingencies throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said Col. Michael Nakonieczny, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “Whether we find ourselves responding to a humanitarian disaster, non-combatant evacuation, or other crises, the 31st MEU is equipped to integrate and operate across the competition continuums and in all domains. MEUEX confirmed the 31st MEU remains ready to be the first on the scene, the first to help, and if need be, the first to fight.”

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