The amphibious assault ship USS Essex and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a non-combatant evacuation exercise Friday off the coast of Okinawa.

The exercise was meant to test the ability and speed of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, to evacuate civilians in a time of crisis, the Navy said in a news release.

Approximately 100 Marines from Okinawa role-played as civilian evacuees while others processed and transported them to designated locations.

After being checked for weapons and contraband on shore, evacuees boarded landing craft and transported to the ship, where Essex sailors took over. Security personnel aboard the Essex guided some evacuees to the hangar bay, where they were entered into a tracking program, and took others requiring medical attention to the sick bay. After processing, evacuees were assigned to one of the ship’s berthing areas while awaiting repatriation, the release said.

“Essex’s Sailors really had to work hand-in-hand for an evolution like this to go well and I think we did that very well,” Chief Stacy Holmes was quoted in the release. “They conducted thorough searches, processed the evacuees quickly and got the injured exactly where they needed to be.”

Sailors also assisted the U.S. Embassy throughout the exercise in identifying evacuees, as well as monitored the search for missing Americans ashore and updating security information for ground forces.

From staff reports

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