The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has kicked off the new year by departing for the multi-lateral training exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
Elements of the 31st MEU, including Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and portions of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, departed from Okinawa en route to the Kingdom of Thailand, the host nation of the exercise.
“The Marines are chomping at the bit to go and are ready to leave Okinawa and start touring the Pacific and executing our mission,” said Lt. Col. Kevin A. Norton, commanding officer of BLT 1/4. “During the exercise we’ll be conducting our normal MEU missions, which are amphibious raids, amphibious assaults, helicopter assaults, small boat raids and humanitarian disaster relief operations.”
Aboard various Navy ships with Amphibious Squadron 11 including USS Tortuga (LSD-46), the Marines and Sailors are underway to execute multi-national events that the MEU is used to. For some, however, this is the first MEU deployment they have been on, and for fewer, their first deployment ever.
“At first I was disappointed that my first deployment wasn’t going to be a combat one and that I was going to be on ship doing exercises for three months,” said Lance Cpl. Cosmo Peters, a machinegunner with Company A., BLT 1/4. “However, after talking to some of my seniors, I realized that although it’s not a combat deployment, it’s beneficial how it further prepares us for a combat deployment and builds better ties with our allies.”
The 31st MEU is scheduled to participate in various multilateral raids and evacuation exercises during Cobra Gold alongside military forces from South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and representatives from approximately 20 other countries. Members of the MEU will also conduct multiple community outreach programs, including the renovation of public schools and providing children with school supplies.
“After this, we’ll be better equipped to not only conduct raids within our own units, but also with foreign Marines who don’t even speak our own language,” said Peters, a Denver, Colo. native. “When I come back I will be better educated to pass my knowledge down to any new Marines in the unit - a cycle that continues.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Article by Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright, 31st MEU