31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

caption= 31st MEU's Insignia
dates= March 1, 1967 - May 1985
September 9, 1992 - present
country=United States
type= Marine Air Ground Task Force
role= Forward-deployed, rapid-response force
size= 2,200
command_structure= III Marine Expeditionary Force
current_commander= Colonel Paul L. Damren
garrison=Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler
battles= Vietnam War
* Operation Union
* Operation Eagle Pull
Operation Iraqi Freedom

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. The MEU consists of a command element, a reinforced infantry battalion, a composite helicopter squadron and an MEU service support group. The 31st MEU is currently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan. This is the only permanently forward deployed MEU, standing always ready to operate in and around the western Pacific


The mission of the MEU is to provide geographic combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, rapid-response force capable of conducting conventional amphibious and selected maritime special operations at night or under adverse weather conditions from the sea, by surface and/or by air while under communications and electronics restrictions.

Current subordinate units

* Ground Combat Element: 3rd Battalion 1st Marines
* Aviation Combat Element: HMM-265 and VMA-513
* Logistics Combat Element: Combat Logistics Battalion 31


Vietnam War

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was activated on March 1, 1967, as Special Landing Force Alpha, for operations in Vietnam. It made the first of many amphibious deployments from Okinawa to the coast of Vietnam on April 10, 1967. Ten days later, it was committed to Operation Union. From May to September, Special Landing Force Alpha was entrusted to ground operations 22 days out of each month.

It was during this period of intense combat that Special Landing Force Alpha earned the Presidential Unit Citation. The unit participated in supporting operations ashore during the following three years, returning to Okinawa periodically for re-outfitting and the rotation of forces.

Special Landing Force Alpha was officially designated as the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) on November 24, 1970. Once more the unit returned to the Gulf of Tonkin. This time, however, the 31st MAU would not be committed to overt land operations as the Vietnam War was winding down. The 31st MAU performed presence missions and conducted a series of special operations through May 1971. From June 1971 until April 1975, the 31st MAU conducted numerous deployments to the waters off Vietnam including the American evacuation by air of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 12, 1975. This was followed by Operation Frequent Wind on April 29, 1975 which was the final evacuation of Saigon as North Vietnamese forces entered the citycite web |date=2000 | url = http://www.history.navy.mil/seairland/chap5.htm | title = Chapter 5: The Final Curtain, 1973 - 1975| format = HTML | publisher = history.navy.mil| accessdate = 2007-12-17] . .

1980s and 1990s

The 31st MAU remained the forward-deployed U.S. presence in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. Combat operations were replaced by regional exercises, which allowed training opportunities in a variety of countries. In 1983, the 31st MAU was recalled from a combined exercise with local forces in Kenya, and positioned in the Mediterranean Sea. Its mission from September to October 1983 was to support U.S. Peacekeeping Forces in Beirut during an intense period of complex political and life-threatening conditions in Lebanon. It was the 31st MAU's last combat operation and the unit was deactivated in May 1985.

The unit was reactivated as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) on September 9, 1992. Since then, the 31st MEU (SOC) has successfully negotiated seven special operations certifications and continues to participate in deployments with Amphibious Squadron 11 throughout the Western Pacific.

The flexibility of the Belleau Wood ARG was demonstrated with the November 1998 crisis with Iraq. All four ARG ships had just completed Exercise Foal Eagle off the coast of Korea, and were heading to various port visits for some liberty, when each ship received the call on November 6, 1998 to sail immediately to Okinawa to offload Marine Air Ground Task Force 4 personnel, and onload the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

A significant portion of the 31st MEU’s 2000 Marines were engaged in urban warfare training in Guam when their message to return to Okinawa came in November. The rest were still in Okinawa, but approximately a quarter of those were new folks just rotating into the battalion from California. The battalion had just two days to gather all their personnel to get ready to deploy.

The 31st MEU and ships’ company personnel started their initial onloads to the ships on November 9 and completed the morning of November 11. In one night alone, they loaded more than 170 pallets of equipment, weapons, and cargo. In addition, a C-5 Galaxy from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, originally scheduled to bring maintenance supplies and tools to Okinawa two weeks later, arrived early on November 10, 1998 in order to restock the MEU’s Air Combat Element. This evolution was a part of the normal supply rotation, but the shipment arrived a week early – just in time to load onto the ships before they departed.

Training exercises and a real-world operation kept the Marine Corps' only permanently forward-deployed MEU on its busy in 2000. Portions of the MEU, including G Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, then the MEU's Battalion Landing Team; portions of the Command Element; and HMM-265, the MEU's former Air Combat Element; and MEU Service Support Group 31 deployed to East Timor in January 2000 aboard USS Juneau (LPD-10) as Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force East Timor. In East Timor, the Marines and Sailors supported the transition from the Australian-led International Forces in East Timor (INTERFET) to the new United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET).

Global War on Terror

In November 2004, 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, then attached to the 31st MEU, participated in direct combat actions during Operation Phantom Fury, the clearing of Fallujah.

In 2006, the 31st MEU was sent to the Philippines to provide relief assistance during the mudslides in southern Leyte [ [http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/public%20affairs%20info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2006/060224-relief.html U.S. aids in Philippine mudslide relief effort ] ] .

On September 21, 2007, the 31st MEU Command Element dedicated its headquarters building to Sergeant Rafael Peralta, who died in Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury while attached to the MEU.

ee also

* Marine Air-Ground Task Force
* List of Marine Expeditionary Units
* Organization of the United States Marine Corps


;Notes:Marine Corps


* [http://www.usmc.mil/31stmeu/index.htm 31st MEU's official website]

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