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USS Germantown Embarks 31st MEU in Preparation of Cobra Gold

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120203-05

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs

WHITE BEACH, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) pulled into Okinawa, Japan Feb. 2 to onload nearly 500 Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and their equipment in preparation for exercise Cobra Gold.

Cobra Gold is a regularly scheduled joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. Cobra Gold 2012 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. Now in its 31st year, the exercise will feature military personnel from the U.S., Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and representatives from more than 20 countries.

The 31st MEU consists of ground, command, air and combat support elements that allow the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to conduct amphibious operations from the sea and project power ashore. Elements from the 31st MEU that will be participating in the exercise include Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion (BLT 1/4), 4th Marines and portions of Combat Logistics Battalion 31.

Capt. Bradley Lee, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, said the exercise will continue to provide allied nations a chance to improve their working partnerships.

"There are things that each of our partner nations do well that we may not do as well and vise versa," said Lee. "The main reason we conduct exercises like Cobra Gold is to learn from our partner nations. Sharing responsibilities and assets makes us a much more potent force."

Lt. Col. Kevin A. Norton, commanding officer of BLT 1/4, said the Marines will perform various missions during Cobra Gold 2012.

"During the exercise, we'll be conducting our normal MEU missions, which are amphibious raids, amphibious assaults, helicopter assaults, small boat raids and humanitarian disaster relief operations," Norton said.

Maj. Fletcher Tidwell, air officer for the 31st MEU said the MEU is anxious to get underway and start the exercise with their allies.

"We're looking forward to getting some great bilateral training with the Thai and other military forces," Tidwell said. "Cobra Gold is always a great training opportunity for everyone that participates."

In addition to the 31st MEU, units from Assault Craft Unit 1 will embark on Germantown for the exercise. They offer an LCU to help bring Marines and their equipment aboard the ship. Germantown's deck department assisted in moving vehicles and pieces of MEU cargo. The equipment includes 7-ton trucks, humvees, howitzers, and various other pieces of gear. Germantown's Bos'n, Lt. j.g. Charles Gatewood said the ship's deck department will conduct well deck operations to launch a Landing Craft Unit (LCU) and then transition to a dry well to conduct four LCU stern gate marriages.

"This patrol is showing how we can adapt to short notice tasking and the Sailors onboard can flex to meet any challenge," Gatewood said. "The Sailors in deck department work long hours but they have a great sense of accomplishment after the mission is complete."

The 31st MEU is embarked aboard the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42). The Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffery Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

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