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Marines of III MEF carried the torch in 2003

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 1/8/2004

Story by Pfc. T. J. Kaemmerer

CAMP COURTNEY - -- The III Marine Expeditionary Forceps mission statement calls it a force in readiness able to deploy rapidly by any and all means and conduct operations from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to amphibious assault and high intensity combat.

III MEF lived up to these words in 2003. The III MEF headquarters conducted 12 exercises while MEFs elements participated in more than 80, all of which combined and took place in more than 20 countries.

According to Sgt. Maj. Michael W. McClure, sergeant major, III MEF the MEF conducted many exercises from large to small. Some of the larger exercises included Ulchi Focus Lens in the Republic of Korea, Cobra Gold in Thailand and Balikatan in the Philippines.

MEF units also held their first-ever exercise with the forces of Mongolia during Exercise Khan Quest 03.

Normally when we execute an exercise we also conduct humanitarian assistance such as medical, dental and engineering Civic Action Projects, McClure said.

With the Marines on Okinawa also serving as ambassadors on a daily basis, the MEF produced more than 6,000 volunteers to help out with more than 520 community relations projects, which impacted around 51,000 local residents. The chapels also raised about $188,000 for charities throughout the MEFs area of responsibility. These included orphanages and senior citizens homes.

We collected more than 10,000 toys this year for Toys for Tots. In my mind I think that's a major accomplishment as ambassadors, McClure said.

The MEF conducted a change of command in 2003. In July, Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, now commander of U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, relinquished command of the MEF to Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman. Before taking command, Blackman served as the Chief of Staff for Coalition Forces Land Component Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the end, 2003 was a year spent on bettering the MEF After successfully sustaining and improving its performance, the MEF is looking forward to 2004 to out-do the strides it made in the past year.

As a MEF, from where I sit, I think it was a good year for us. Like any organization you have your ups and your downs, but I think the ups far outweigh the downs, McClure said. As Marines, we always carry the mission out. There's always room to improve, you'll never be completely satisfied with what you do. You always want to try to get better, and I think the MEF gets better with each passing year.

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