OKINAWA, Japan – The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD2) embarked more than 1,200 Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa Jan. 27-28 in preparation for a patrol throughout the Western Pacific region.
During the onload, Essex’ combat cargo department loaded more than 100 vehicles and 300 pieces of equipment from the MEU’s battalion landing team, ground combat element, aviation combat element and combat logistics battalion (CLB).
“The onload is new for everyone on this crew,” said Gunnery Sgt. Steven R. Jones, Essex’ senior combat cargo assistant. “We finished ahead of schedule, which is rare with a new crew. For a ship this size, it usually takes three days to load, but this time it took half the time.”
Jones’ praise of the efficient handling of the MEU onload was echoed by Chief Warrant Officer Scott R. Allison, Essex’ combat cargo officer.
“It went smooth, actually pretty outstanding – one of the quickest onloads the ship has done,” he said.
The speed and proficiency exhibited during the onload was especially impressive due to the fact that combat cargo Marines come from a variety of backgrounds and undergo a very short training period on how all the equipment on board an amphibious assault ship, said Jones.
“Combat cargo Marines come from multiple military occupation specialties and have only about 10 days of training,” he said. “We have a good team. Everyone did what they were supposed to do.”
While seasoned veterans comprise much of the MEU, the patrol will provide many Marines with their first taste of life aboard a Navy ship.
“I’m looking forward to the training exercises and seeing some of the different countries we’re going to be visiting,” said Lance Cpl. Dustin S. Delosh, who is assigned to the 31st CLB.
The patrol will feature a series of maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between U.S. and Western Pacific partner nations. Essex Sailors, along with the 31st MEU, will train with forces throughout the region.