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Master Sgt. Leroy A. Forbes reads off names for accountability for Task Force Koa Moana at Tengan Pier, Okinawa, Japan on May 18, 2016. The task force is responsible for conducting a series of bilateral, multi-national exercises involving a company-sized element of Marines and Sailors from different units within III Marine Expeditionary Force. They will be traveling to countries in the Asia-Pacific region aboard the USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), a Marine Prepositioning Force ship. The ship is normally a mobile warehouse for Marines’ supplies; however, during this exercise, it will serve to transport personnel to multiple nations, where they will conduct basic military training and cultural exchange to increase relations and interoperability between participating nations. Forbes, from Hartford, Conn., is a combat engineer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and is the task force’s senior enlisted in charge for the series of exercises. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. William Hester/ Released)

Photo by Cpl. William Hester

Task Force Koa Moana Embarks From Okinawa

25 May 2016 | Cpl. William Hester III Marine Expeditionary Force

Before any exercise or operational deployment there is always a rush of events happening to get the boat moving. The majority of general population service members often find themselves in many formations during the pre-deployment phase waiting for new information to be passed, but what they don’t see is the countless hours spent behind the curtain that ensure the operation can be carried out successfully.

“Even though it’s my first deployment, which made me really nervous, I was excited because I was ready to go to all these countries and to be a very important person to this exercise,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Gibson, the embarkation chief, and only embarkation specialist, for Task Force Koa Moana. Gibson is originally assigned to the operations section of Headquarters Regiment, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Task Force Koa Moana is assigned to participate in a series of bilateral, multi-national exercises in different countries designed to provide the opportunity for participating nations to exchange engineering and infantry tactics and basic military skills to increase interoperability in the Asia-Pacific region. Marines and Sailors from different units with III MEF will be aboard USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), a Marine Prepositioning Force ship, to travel from country to country to conduct this training.

The Marines and sailors with the task force loaded their gear onto USNS Sacagawea at Tengan Pier, Okinawa, Japan on May 17, 2016 to set sail for their mission.

To get the equipment and supplies needed for the exercise takes coordination and cooperation from units across III MEF, according to Gibson, from Broken Bow, Okla. The task force needed documentation of approval from participating units before being able to transfer the gear and supplies from respective units for the task force. Once they had the documentation, they were able to transport it from different bases, load it into storage containers, and transfer it to the ship.

“The process is actually a few months in the making,” said 1st Lt. Briana M. Buckles, the task force’s logistics officer. “All that back planning from subject matter experts leads up to the one day of on-load. The logistics process and planning covers a really wide range of things. It’s me coordinating with each of those Marines who are the subject matter experts to do that planning. A lot of these Marines are one of one. I have one food service Marine, one ammo technician, one armorer, one motor transport operator, one heavy equipment operator and that’s it. That one lance corporal is responsible for his job, and everything related to that job is up to that one Marine to get it done. I hope this opportunity, to be completely responsible for their small piece of the logistics requirement, gives them more confidence and knowledge to go ahead in their military occupational specialty in future training operations.”

Being the only embarkation Marine, sleep was scarce for Gibson during the week prior to embarking. It was his responsibility to ensure proper load plans, gear labels and proper weighing of the gear to get it all from shore to ship.

Once the gear is transported to the port, it is up to the landing support specialists, or “red-patchers,” to use heavy equipment, such as fork lifts and cranes, to get the gear safely from the port to the ship. The red-patchers are with 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd MLG, III MEF.

“He works really hard, and he knows his job,” said Buckles, from Oceanside, Calif., in regards to Gibson. “He’s my one embark Marine. He worked in conjunction with the (3rd Marine Logistics Group) and their embark section to make the entire embark plan. To have one lance corporal who does that is a pretty cool thing to see. He’s very deliberate in his process, and he makes sure it gets done.”

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