Marines demonstrate humanitarian aid capabilities
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, QUEENSLAND, Australia -- With one knee resting on the crusty, dry soil, the Marine peered down the road and watched as the loose dirt broke apart under the weight of the approaching trucks.
As the trucks passed, destined for a nearby community, he could see their beds were loaded with food, water and medical supplies. The Marine logistics team was on the scene, and those effected by a recent natural disaster would now receive the assistance they requested.
Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted humanitarian assistance training Aug. 9, in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, as part of the 31st MEU’s certification exercise.
The humanitarian assistance mission was designed to test the 31st MEU’s ability to assist a community cut off from food, water and medical attention.
Tasked to assess the situation and provide assistance, the 31st MEU sent its logistics combat element supplied with everything a community would need to maintain its health, crops and structures.
“The humanitarian assistance mission provides the local civilians the necessary supplies they would need to sustain their everyday life, including food, water, gas, shelter and electricity,” said 1st Lt. Jake M. Sharry, the humanitarian assistance officer in charge with CLB-31. “It is the most likely mission the 31st MEU will face because we are in the Asia-Pacific region where typhoons are known to cause problems.”
In order to begin assisting the distressed population, role-played by Marines, the humanitarian assistance team first established a distribution site, quickly established stations using vehicles and existing structures for distributing supplies and managing relief efforts.
For the protection of the personnel and equipment, concertina wire is placed around the perimeter while the military police team searches every civilian who enters the site.
“When we are conducting the hasty search at the entrance, we are looking for big-ticket items that could be a danger to others,” said Sgt. Michael D. Mansholt, the platoon sergeant with Military Police Platoon, CLB-31. “We’re looking for weapons, drugs and any other contraband that could cause harm.”
After the search is complete, civilians needing medical attention are escorted to the medical station where corpsmen diagnose and treat health problems.
A helicopter was available to transport patients to the USS Bonhomme Richard for further treatment if their ailments were beyond the treatment capability of the field medical station.
Individuals who did not need medical care moved directly from the search area to the food and water distribution station where Marines handed out a three-day supply of potable water and food for each person.
“By handing out the food and water, I am able to interact with the role-players and improve my interpersonal skills,” said Cpl. Luis D. Ramirez, a motor vehicle operator with CLB-31. “(This scenario) gives us an awesome chance to train for a real-life situation where we can lend a helping hand to those in need.”
The ability to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief is one of many capabilities the 31st MEU tests during the certificate exercise, ensuring preparedness for any contingency the unit may face while patrolling the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward deployed MEU.