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31st MEU successfully completes certification exercise

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The 31st MEU successfully completed its certification exercise Oct. 16, which certifies that the unit is mission capable for a wide variety of operations.

The certification exercise took place from Oct. 6 to Oct. 16 and encompassed eight complex exercises to include practicing humanitarian aid and disaster relief, non-combatant evacuation, vessel boarding, search and seizure, amphibious raids, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.

Col. Jeff Arruda, commanding officer of Marine Air Group 36 and the senior evaluator for this CERTEX, wrapped up the exercise with a presentation to the senior leaders of the 31st MEU, discussing the many areas in which the MEU excelled and a few areas to potentially improve upon.

“I have never seen a faster integration of a MEU and an amphibious squadron, and I am impressed by the way they came together,” said Arruda. “There was good effort and flexibility across the board during CERTEX.”

Some of the key successes Arruda highlighted were the understanding of the rules of engagement across all ranks, rapid setup and employment of communications, and adaptability of the MEU to remain flexible when the environment and situation changed rapidly.

Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer o f the 31st MEU, followed Arruda’s brief by reminding the audience of the purpose of being evaluated during CERTEX.

“The benefit of having evaluators is to learn lessons for the future,” said MacMannis. ”We need to adjust where needed in order to make us a better unit and to keep moving forward."

This evaluation exercise presented plenty of challenges that the Navy and Marine team had to adapt to and overcome. Navy Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, addressed how the symbiotic relationship between PHIBRON 11 and the 31st MEU makes it all possible.

"The Amphibious Readiness Group did a great job with flexing to support the 31st MEU," said Lee. "Our success during this exercise proves how important it is for the blue-green team to train together so that we can be prepared for real world challenges."

The 31st MEU goes through CERTEX about every six months, as compared to other MEUs in the Marine Corps, which execute certification approximately every 18 months.

Although carrying out CERTEX every six months can be quite a task, it keeps the 31st MEU ready for contingency operations year-round as the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.

The importance of CERTEX is demonstrated by the five actual humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions that the 31st MEU performed in the last three years, including Operation Tomodachi in Northeast Japan.

The 31st MEU is the nation’s only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Article by 2nd Lt. Dave Baugh, 31st MEU