CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa—U.S. Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31 returned to Okinawa after conducting a combat logistics training exercise on Tinian in the CNMI last Dec. 9-13, 2019. The training validated CLB-31’s tactics, techniques and procedures when operating in a contested littoral environment, separated from the 31st MEU main body as it conducted MEUEX on Okinawa.
For the exercise, CLB-31 sent Combat Logistics Platoon 311 consisting of four High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (or Humvees) with satellite and high frequency communications, fuel storage and water production capabilities. The training consisted of dispersed command and control, tactical logistics and self-sufficiency training primarily at the Exclusive Military Use Area in the vicinity of Tinian’s North Field. Dispersed command and control demonstrated the ability of CLB-31 Marines to operate in a degraded environment, while constantly moving to avoid being targeted by simulated adversaries. In order to achieve the mobility needed to deter enemy targeting, CLP-311 operated on foot and out of the independent Humvees while transmitting radio communications and quickly maneuvering to avoid detection.
“Combat Logistics Battalion 31 is executing a deliberately designed experimentation program focused on supporting service-level 21st Century combat logistics support modernization focused on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of operations,” said Lt Col Christopher Johnson, commanding officer of CLB-31. “We are learning to dynamically task organize our logistics command element in support of distributed forces, develop survivable command and control to support logistics command requirements, and employ proven Marine Corps field craft as the basis for our tactics. Doing so furthers the 31st MEU’s ability to operate independently, in any environment.”
To further validate logistical readiness in crisis, Marines and sailors conducted self-sufficiency training to include food and water aerial supply drops, mobile atmospheric water generation for purified drinking water and local civilian interaction. CLP-311 conducted what is known as ‘21st century foraging’, with small unit leaders relying on local businesses to supply diesel fuel and sustainment for the force to avoid creating a large operational footprint in a simulated contested environment. Validating these training events solidified CLB-31’s template for expeditionary operations and reinforced the 31st MEU mission to perform operations as a flexible force capable of conducting split operations.
At the conclusion of the training, CLB-31 hosted a volunteer driven Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation event where locals submit basic identification requirements for processing in the event of possible humanitarian disasters. Shortly after, the locals of Tinian were invited to a community volleyball and barbecue event held around the mayor’s office. Here, Marines and sailors were able to bond with the people that have continued to host the 31st MEU and its training requirements regularly.
“Twenty-first century foraging is a future operations requirement, and one we are constantly improving on,” said Johnson. “Incorporating organic field disbursing and supply capabilities into our concept of support will make us more expeditionary, flexible, and responsive. Ultimately, this improves our ability to sustain the 31st MEU and higher commands in a contested environment by creating a more diverse and resilient supply chain.”
The last time that the same units were on Tinian was in October and November 2018, when elements of CLB-31 and the 31st MEU, aboard ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group, deployed in Defense Support of Civil Authorities after Super Typhoon Yutu swept through the Northern Mariana Islands.
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.
1st Lt. Demond Glover (31st Marine Expeditionary Unit)