-- “As we join here today at this memorial, I am not only thankful for Rota's quick recovery but for the brave men that have given their lives in the name of freedom. I salute them and you all - Semper Fidelis,” reflected Marine Corps Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Corporal Joe Junior G. Charfauros Veterans Memorial Park in Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Sept. 14.
While groups of local police officers, Marines, and Sailors stood at attention, Rota mayor Efraim Atalig hosted the gathering as participants shared mutual appreciation for the positive relationships developed during recent typhoon recovery operations. The brief observance marked the conclusion of 31st MEU and Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 relief efforts during support to federal agencies and local communities in the wake of Typhoon Mangkhut, which swept through the island chain of Guam and the CNMI on Sept. 10.
From Sept. 9 to 14, the 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), provided crucial air support including assistance to civil authorities. Since Sept. 11, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 completed 63 sorties that facilitated over 550 personnel transfers and delivery of around 29,465 lbs. of cargo including drinking water in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and local authorities, throughout Guam and the CNMI.
“Our Sailors and Marines came here September 9th ready to help the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands," said McGovern. “Plain and simple, USS Wasp and USS Ashland did an exceptional job maneuvering off shore, and the flight deck crews and pilots went beyond the call to get aircraft loaded with food, supplies and water to those in need. The whole team did a fantastic job."
Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 supported by sending more than 100 Marines and Sailors ashore to assist with debris removal throughout Rota. The troops cleared roadways by hand using chainsaws and axes along nine miles of the island’s main road, ensuring future relief efforts directed by FEMA could continue unhindered.
Col. Brodie was grateful that the MEU and PHIBRON Marines and Sailors could make a positive contribution to Department of Defense recovery efforts in support of FEMA, Guam and CNMI civil authorities after Typhoon Mangkhut.
“The citizens of this wonderful community have been exceptionally gracious and it was a true pleasure to partner with them and FEMA,” finished Brodie. “To the mayor and all members of the Rota and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands communities: it has been a privilege to assist in restoring Rota after the effects of the recent typhoon.”