Marines of the 31st MEU disembark USS Essex (LHD 2) at White Beach Naval Facility.
OKINAWA, Japan (Nov. 04, 2011)- Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) disembark the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) at White Beach Naval Facility. Essex offloaded elements of the 31st MEU after completing Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is conducting operations in the Western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew R. Cole)
Germantown Offloads 31st MEU, Prepares For White Beach Fest
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs
OKINAWA, Japan - The forward-deployed dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) arrived at White Beach Naval Facility Nov. 8 to offload components of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and prepare for White Beach Festival, scheduled to take place Nov. 12-13.
White Beach Fest is a two-day, Open Base event sponsored by Commander, Fleet Activities Okinawa, during which, military members, DoD civilians and locals are welcome to come and enjoy food, entertainment, and fun on White Beach Naval Facility.

“Germantown typically pulls into port, quickly offloads or on loads the Marines, and continues with its mission,” said Cmdr. Carol McKenzie, Germantown’s commanding officer. “This extended visit is a chance for Germantown Sailors to explore the island, visit the other military bases, show off their ship, and interact with our host nation’s citizens.”

Germantown is one of the featured attractions at this year’s White Beach Fest. The ship will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. each day for small-group guided tours on a first come, first serve basis.

Festivities begin at 11 a.m. and last until 10 p.m. both days.

White Beach Fest is intended to promote friendship and foster mutual appreciation and understanding between the local community and U.S. service members. Visitors will also have the opportunity to interact with Sailors and enjoy live concerts, cultural performances, and more.

“After the offload, the crew will work to reorganize and clean the ship in preparation for the tours and distinguished visitors that we will be having onboard this week,” said McKenzie. “This festival is a very fitting end to a successful deployment.”

During the offload, Germantown Sailors worked with 31st MEU Marines to offload medium tactical vehicle replacements, high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, M777 Howitzers and other equipment. More than 50 vehicles, 380 Marines and other MEU components were offloaded using landing craft utilities and Germantown’s 20-ton and 60-ton cranes.

“Our number one priority throughout this offload has been safety,” said Lt. j.g. Charles L. Gatewood, Germantown’s boatswain and offload supervisor. “These Sailors have been up since dawn working to bring the ship into port and get all of this equipment off. By staying alert, using all of the proper safety gear and properly supervising this evolution, we can make sure everyone gets home to their families.”

Port visits around Japan allow Sailors to experience the rich culture that this country has to offer and gives Sailors and locals an opportunity to interact and develop a deeper understanding of the alliance U.S and Japanese forces are committed to defend.
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