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Pacific-based Marine Expeditionary Brigade conducts fly-away drill

11 Sep 2013 | 1st Lt. Jeremy Alexander

CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan - Marines and sailors with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade conducted a “fly-away” drill Sept. 7 to maintain their readiness as III Marine Expeditionary Forces’ Alert Contingency Marine Air-Ground Task Force in the Pacific.

III MEF’s ACM is tasked to maintain the capability to rapidly deploy a scalable headquarters and contingency forces within the Pacific Command area of responsibility for small-scale, short-duration crisis response to save lives, mitigate human suffering, and counter threats to U.S. national interests.

3rd MEB serves as the headquarters for this ACM, ready to deploy within 24 hours to any crisis or contingency in the region.

“This training is especially relevant since 3rd MEB has been called upon to assist in disaster relief as recently as Typhoon Bopha, December 2012 in the Republic of the Philippines,” said Col. Mark Menotti, assistant chief of staff, G-4, supply and logistics, 3rd MEB. “3rd MEB has also been deployed to assist during Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. and Japan’s response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2011, and Thailand flood relief.”

This drill began with a simulated disaster in Nepal, at which point III MEF activated a crisis action team to determine capabilities necessary to respond to the crisis. Marines from all subordinate commands of III MEF participated in the drill, initiating recall procedures, palletizing humanitarian assistance/disaster relief supplies, and evaluating operating procedures to ensure they are done quickly and effectively during an actual crisis.

In addition to real-world operations, members of the 3rd MEB are constantly training for their contingency mission. Recent examples include the Joint Humanitarian Operations Course, Humanitarian Assistance Response training and participation in exercises such as Ssang Yong in the Republic of Korea, Balikatan and PHIBLEX in the Republic of the Philippines, and Talisman Saber in Australia.

“Our primary mission is to maintain our ability and readiness to serve as PACOM’s crisis response force headquarters for any crisis or contingency in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lt. Col. Rod Legowski, assistant chief of staff, G-3, operations and training, 3rd MEB. “Everything we do is executed with that goal in mind.”

This “fly-away” drill has further significance in that members of the 3rd MEB flew to Nepal to participate in Pacific Resilience, a disaster response exercise and exchange field-training exercise Sept. 9–12. This event incorporates civilian and military subject-matter expertise from Nepal and the United States, focusing on disaster preparedness, risk mitigation, humanitarian assistance and best practices. It will incorporate academic presentations, command and control establishment, and interactive field exercises focused on medical response, urban search and rescue, engineering and logistics.

This exercise is not a singular event, but rather a culmination of security cooperation activities that lead to effective and efficient emergency preparedness, response and recovery. The 3rd MEB also participated in a tabletop exercise in February 2013 with the Nepalese Army designed as a coordinated approach to planning and simulated execution of an earthquake response involving the government of Nepal, U.S. Embassy Katmandu, III MEF, U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Air Force Pacific, multinational contributing nations, and non-governmental and international organizations.

“Every exercise we do with the Nepalese Army continues to build our relationship and better prepare both our nations to save lives, protect property, and prepare for the next major disaster,” said Col. John Peck, the chief of staff of 3rd MEB.