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31st MEU boards Essex ARG, prepares for voyage home

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005228163010
Story by Staff Sgt. J. D. Cress

KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait (Feb. 28, 2005) -- The Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit boarded three ships of the U.S. Navy’s Essex Amphibious Ready Group Feb. 28 to prepare for a 4-week voyage back home to Okinawa, Japan.

The 31st MEU conducted security and stabilization operations in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility from September 2004 to February 2005. The MEU was assigned to 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

The 2,200-member MEU was responsible for a wide range of missions including assistance and security for Iraq’s first free elections, limited-scale raids against the insurgency, civil affairs missions, Iraqi border security, training of Iraqi Security Forces, as well as other operations needed to further stabilize the area in support of the Interim Iraq Government.

The 31st MEU, a Marine Air Ground Task Force, is comprised of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), MEU Service Support Group 31, and the MEU Command Element that was responsible for the command and control of the MEU dispersed throughout a 33,000 square-mile area of operations in the western Al Anbar province.

“The 31st MEU is looking forward to returning to Okinawa,” said Capt. Burrell D. Parmer, MEU spokesman and native of Monroe, La. “We are proud to have had to opportunity to demonstrate our expeditionary capabilities. The continuous cycles of training in the Asia-Pacific region has prepared us for operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Although we are preparing to head home for a much deserve rest and to share timed missed with our love ones, we must continue to be ready to serve as America’s 911 force in the western Pacific.”

Other members of the MEU are looking forwarded to leaving Kuwait.

“I’m real excited,” said Hospital Corpsman Jerod M. Napier, 22, of BLT 1/3, a native of Orlando, Fla. “This is the first step for us getting closer to home. Our time here was beneficial to the Iraqi people.”

According to Sgt. Christopher P. Funk, 23, of BLT 1/3, he is ready to go home also.

“It was awesome to come here and fight for freedom,” the Baltimore native said. “It is a great feeling leaving here and knowing of what we have accomplished. I’ll return to Hawaii, take leave and spend some time with my family in Maryland.”

The Essex ARG, home-ported in Sasebo, Japan, is comprised of the USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Juneau (LPD-10), and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).

The USS Essex (LHD-2) participated in Operation Unified Assistance and provided support and aid to the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami in Indonesia.

“The 31st MEU and the Essex ARG started together, stayed in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility together, and will finish together,” said Parmer.

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