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Essex Offloads 31st MEU in Okinawa

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061204-09
Release Date: 12/4/2006 3:19:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Kennedy, USS Essex Public Affairs

OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2), with help from the embarked Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1, as well as helicopter support from the Marine Air Combat Element (ACE), offloaded nearly 1,500 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marines and 664 tons of equipment after completion of the annual fall patrol Nov. 29-30.

The offload involved the MEU's ground element, command element and the combat support element. Most of the ACE not involved in delivering personnel or cargo to shore flew off the ship prior to the ship pulling pierside.

The primary unit responsible for coordinating all the movement of Marine personnel and equipment aboard Essex is the permanently embarked combat cargo Marines.

“We are the guys that make it happen,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Jose Alvarez, of the Essex Combat Cargo Department. “The MEU will set its priorities and we execute it. We can offload the whole MEU in 12 hours or less, if needed.”

Not only did personnel and equipment need to be moved off the ship expeditiously, the job of turning over the spaces that the Marines used while they were embarked was completed quickly and efficiently.

“After finally completing the fall patrol, the MEU offloaded their gear and turned over all berthings and office spaces that they occupied when they were here,” said the acting Essex Command Master Chief, Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (AW/SW) William J. Thomson. “It all went extremely well, which added to a highly successful, long patrol.”

Marines said they enjoyed the time on Essex, but were happy to be home.

“I like going to sea and doing operations,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Charles Allen, “but it will be good to get home and see the family for the holidays.”

Essex is the Navy’s only forward deployed amphibious assault ship and is the flagship for the Essex Amphibious Ready Group based in Sasebo, Japan. The ships servers under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76. Task Force 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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