PHILIPPINE SEA -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) for tasking in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, July 25, 2022.
MEUs regularly embark, train and deploy on Navy vessels to prepare and respond to crises throughout the world, and this marks the first time that a MEU has embarked Tripoli. As Tripoli and the 31st MEU operate together, they are demonstrating how this combined force provides many advantages.
To begin, the Aviation-Combat Element (ACE) flew aboard prior to the ship pulling into Naval Base White Beach in Okinawa, Japan. Tripoli’s Air, Aviation Intermediate Maintenance, Supply, and Combat Cargo departments all worked together with the MEU to ensure the safe landing of aircraft and stowage of the aviation and ground support equipment brought aboard.
“Embarking 1,200 personnel, 23 aircraft, and hundreds of pallets of gear and equipment is no simple task,” said Chief Warrant Officer Eric Heggen, Tripoli’s combat cargo officer. “There are always going to be challenges and obstacles when executing any onload, but thankfully we have an experienced staff aboard that was ready to adapt to any challenge to successfully execute the mission.”
The ACE composition on Tripoli includes CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and F-35B Lightning II aircraft. The ACE transports Marines from the ship to wherever they are needed during amphibious operations. They also provide air support and can resupply Marines on the ground.
Once moored in Okinawa, Sailors and Marines worked together to onload several tons of essential equipment into the ship’s hangar bay and vehicle stowage area using forklifts and cranes.
“Something this big takes months of planning,” said Heggen. “Sailors and Marines from both the MEU embarkation team and Tripoli were a tremendous help in getting the embarkation accomplished. From the MEU pre-staging the cargo and properly labeling it to Tripoli’s Safety Department zoning off safe transportation routes, it all went smoothly.”
Another important element of the MEU embarking Tripoli is the ground combat element (GCE). The GCE’s personnel are primarily infantry Marines who serve as the boots on the ground force for the MEU.
They also brought the equipment needed to support their mission, such as weaponry and ground combat vehicles.
“The GCE and their equipment accounted for the majority of what was brought aboard during the embark,” said Heggen. “We had to use forklifts and cranes to bring everything onto the ship.”
In addition to the ACE and the GCE, the logistics support element (LSE) also embarked on Tripoli. The LSE provides the MEU with combat support such as supply, maintenance, transportation, combat engineering, military police, and medical and dental services.
“Bringing all of these elements together on this ship for the first time was a challenge,” said Heggen. “Luckily the Sailors and Marines of the 31st MEU are experienced professionals and have done this many times before.”
Sailors welcomed Marines as they came aboard with bags in hand and rucksacks on their backs.
“While this is not my first time on a ship, my first impression of the Tripoli was much different than what I have experienced on other ships,” said Cpl. Mason Altman, a Marine assigned to Tripoli’s Combat Cargo platoon. “Tripoli is very focused on the efficient execution of all of its operations. This tempo of work combined with the high standards expected of everyone is different than anything I’ve ever experienced on a ship before.”
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU and 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.
Tripoli is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.