On May 4, 2017, the Center for Adaptation and Innovation (CAI) hosted the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (BHRARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as part of its Returning Commander Speaker Series. The 31st MEU is composed of approximately 2,300 Marines and Sailors from the command element (CE) and three major subordinate elements (MSE) – ground combat element (GCE), logistics combat element (LCE), and aviation combat element (ACE). The BHRARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). The 31st MEU is the only continuously deployed MEU, and is deployed fifty percent of the time.
The BHRARG and 31st MEU were deployed to the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region for 163 days, and conducted training events and multinational exercise participation. The ARG/MEU completed two successful MEU certification exercises, four Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) port visits, a naval infantry exchange, and continued to focus on naval integration. For example, the ARG/MEU conducted Exercise Valiant Shield, an exercise off the coast of Guam to practice port and airfield seizures, as well as live fire support. Amphibious Landing Exercise 16 was also conducted. The purpose of this exercise was to improve the interoperability and capacity of the US Marine Corps, US Navy, Philippine Marine Corps, and Philippine Navy team. In addition, the 31st MEU conducted a subject matter expert exchange with the Vietnamese 147th Brigade Naval Infantry. The Vietnamese Navy provided the 31st MEU with an overview of Vietnam’s military history, as well as a tour of the Vietnam Military Museum and Ho Chi Minh bunker. The 31st MEU in return provided small unit recruiting training, unit level training, and knowledge of USMC weaponry. This exchange demonstrated improved relations with our Vietnamese counterparts, and an improved understanding of the capabilities of our regional partners.
According to Colonel Tye Wallace, Commanding Officer of the 31st MEU, the key takeaways from this deployment were a continued focus on amphibious warfare, coordination between naval partners, which increases effectiveness, and smoother transition periods since MEU personnel are never stabilized. He also stated, that we must look for ways to help the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) “start the fight early.” Land, air, and sea must be looked at as one coherent battle space, and we must develop a “single maritime Common Operational Picture (COP)” to ensure naval readiness.
Image:U.S. Marines disembark the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after returning from their Spring Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region, April 6, 2017 http://www.31stmeu.marines.mil/News/News-Article-View/Article/1150416/31st-meu-phibron-11-complete-spring-patrol/