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Essex Embarks 31st MEU for Spring Patrol

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080201-05
Release Date: 2/1/2008 8:52:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Didier, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det. Sasebo

OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived at Okinawa, Jan. 28 to embark Sailors and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) for their annual Spring Patrol throughout East and Southeast Asia.

The 31st MEU embarked Essex as part of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group with more than 850 Marines, Sailors and their equipment.

Essex Sailors and Marines along with the 31st MEU Landing Support Detachment worked diligently to on-load and store more than 1,500 tons of supplies, vehicles and weapon systems in spaces aboard Essex. The cargo was sorted and arranged for quick offload to support amphibious operations.

With the MEU embarked for spring patrol Essex Supply Department must overcome a variety of challenges for the deployment while continuing to provide great customer service to Sailors and Marines. One of these obstacles is planning 6,000 meals everyday.

"With the Marines on board we spend roughly three times as much on food, increasing the ships cost from $10,000 to $30,000 daily," said Chief Warrant Officer Mark Harrington, Essex food service officer. "We are also augmented with Marines to help serve the increased number of personnel on board."

During the extensive on-load, Marines and Sailors worked as a team using cranes, forklifts and other equipment to move gear into the living quarters and work centers and to ensure all cargo was secured for sea.

"The on-load went a lot smoother then was originally anticipated, even with the new Marines we needed to train," said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Alvarez, of Essex combat cargo.

Essex departed Sasebo, Japan for its spring patrol throughout the Western Pacific region, Jan. 24 and departed Okinawa after completing the on load of the 31st MEU, Jan. 31 where they also conducted unit-level amphibious proficiency training.

During spring patrol Essex will participate in a series of bilateral maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness of partner Asian-Pacific nations. Essex will continue to make a positive difference in the Western Pacific through continued friendship building engagements, while remaining a vigilant force for security, stability and prosperity.

Essex's presence in the Western Pacific demonstrates the U.S. commitment to fulfilling treaty obligations and security arrangements in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and helps to foster peace and stability in the region.

The Essex Expeditionary Strike Group is the largest in the 7th Fleet AOR and is composed of the amphibious assault ship Essex, Amphibious Squadron 11, the transport dock ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), the dock landing ship USS Juneau (LPD 10), Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, Beach Master Unit 1 and Assault Craft Unit 1.

The 31st MEU makes up the Marine force embarked with the ESG consisting of Marine Attack Squadron 513 from Yuma Arizona, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion 4th Marines from Camp Pendleton Calif., Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 and Combat Logistic Battalion 31.

Essex is the only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and serves Task Force 76 the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility Okinawa, with an operating detachment in Sasebo.

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