U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks/ Released
U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks/ Released

Plan, Train and Achieve from Training to Operations: 31st MEU S-3

by Lance Cpl. Cameron Parks
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

In order for a complex organization to work every part must work together and move cohesively. That is how the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit works, largely thanks to the Marines in the S-3 section.

“The S-3 assures that all annual training is done, from Physical Fitness Tests to classes people need to complete,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Jose A. Ruiz, the operations chief for the 31st MEU. “We also plan for future and current operations that are happening in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Being the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, operational planning is a crucial part of the 31st MEU; whether that be in the form of coordination with other units and countries, building and maintaining relations, or planning for the next exercise.

“The S-3 is an enlightening section to be a part of,” said Maj. Joshua W. Connors, the technical information operations officer with the 31st MEU. “Though the S-3 is heavy in training, we also maintain focus on future exercises while actively engaged in other exercises, and are consistently coordinating conferences with other countries for future operations.”

Along with maintaining a ready fighting force, the S-3 coordinates and improves exercises and operations. The S-3 doesn’t just look at what’s happening in the next month, they look forward up to two years in advance. In the midst of this process, they look for other ways to improve training from past deployments.

“The S-3 creates a post deployment brief for the 31st MEU command leadership every six months,” said Connors. “They take the brief to the pentagon to present to the commandant, congressmen and so on to advocate for the unit as a whole.”

All this planning would go to waste if the 31st MEU didn’t have their Marines and Sailors prepared for deployment; another side of S-3 is coordinating annual training.”

“That’s why the S-3 is so important,” said Staff Sgt. Todd R. Olmsted, the assistant operations chief for the 31st MEU. “Nothing happens without us.”

Not only are the future operations crucial, so is mission accomplishment. To complete the mission the Marines need their annual training completed and up to date. The S-3 shows their readiness for mission accomplishment and take care of Marines in the unit by creating a schedule and rosters for Marines to be notified on what training they need to do, and inputting the results in to Marine Corps Training Information Management System.

“The 31st MEU has such a high operational tempo that trying to get each Marine’s training done while in garrison is one of the harder things that the S-3 handles,” Ruiz said. “Our concern is making sure the Marines in our unit are taken care of, professionally.”

Prior to deployment, the S-3 pieces together the requirements of individuals with the 31st MEU commander’s intent. This normally requires the coordination of Shallow Water Egress Training, height and weight, Physical Fitness Tests, the Combat Fitness Test, rifle qualification and any lance corporal seminars, corporals course, and sergeants course that Marines need in garrison and aboard the ships during deployment.

On deployment whether on ship or in other countries, the S-3 keeps training steady, from conducting multiple live-fire ranges from conducting multiple live-fire ranges including deck shoots, to night shoots, to any bilateral training with partnered countries that the MEU works with during deployment.

“If the S-3 stopped working, all training and operations would be at a standstill,” says Olmsted. “Marines wouldn’t get their training done, we wouldn’t deploy, scores wouldn’t be input and people wouldn’t get promoted.”

Benefits to being a part of the S-3 include, getting to see the impact that the section has on Marines just by being a part of the training and logging process, according to Olmsted.

“The thing that I appreciate about being a part of this section is getting to run alongside Marines during their PFT or CFT, seeing them achieve their goals and succeed in their Marine Corps future,” said Olmsted. “Just by me doing my job, I see the positive impact on the people I come in contact with.”

Photo Caption:
Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Motley, an S-3 fires specialist with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, inputs information into the Marine Corps Training Information Management System at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, April 18, 2019. Motley a native of Cocoa Beach, Fla., graduated from Cocoa Beach Junior Senior High School in May of 2014 before enlisting in August of 2017. The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continually 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.

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