31st MEU trains for humanitarian aid missions
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Troops from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completed a humanitarian assistance operation exercise last week at Camp Hansen in preparation for becoming special operations capable.
Participating in the training were servicemembers from MEU Service Support Group 31, the combat service support element of the 31st MEU; and members of the unit’s combat element, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
Humanitarian missions can range from disaster relief operations to providing medical and dental services to rebuilding public structures, according to Capt. Burrell Parmer, 31st MEU spokesman. The missions can take place on foreign or domestic soil.
“It’s our objective to win the hearts and minds of the native populace, and not just by going through the motions,” said 2nd Lt. J.R. Apkarian, site commander with MSSG-31, in a news release.
The training centered on the 31st MEU’s motor pool. There, infantry Marines posted security as medical and support personnel set up their base of operations in a garage, Parmer said.
Fellow Marines acted as villagers seeking medical assistance as the aid force patrolled. The “locals” were treated, with some becoming upset and aggressive when told to wait their turn.
The crowd was worked into a frenzy when one man said modern medicine wouldn’t work, and that he had what could cure his people. His antics incited a riot against the Marines and sailors. To quell the protesters, artillery Marines from India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, donned protective gear and created a wall of plastic shields and forced the rioters away.
A remote dental station also was set up.
“We used this training as an opportunity to practice dentistry outside of a conventional medical facility,” Navy Lt. Toni Bowden, a dentist with MSSG-31, said in the release.
“With as many new people to the MSSG that we have, it went pretty smoothly,” said Sgt. Chris Smith, MSSG-31 intelligence chief, in the release. “This type of training is great, especially if we deploy to countries with fewer medical and dental assets than our own.”