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thedrifter
03-23-07, 08:53 PM
Japan MEU deployment extended to one year

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 23, 2007 12:24:15 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The seven-month deployment of roughly 1,200 Marines and sailors in Japan has been extended to 12 months, the Marine Corps has announced.

The five-month extension affects several stateside units deployed as part of the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is operating in the Western Pacific region, said Capt. Jay Delarosa, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters.

“To most effectively support both the plus-up of forces in Iraq and the other combatant commanders' requirements in the [global war on terrorism], the [commandant] has decided to extend the current deployment of designated units assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit,” Delarosa said Thursday morning.

The extension affects Marines and Fleet Marine Force sailors with these West Coast-based units:

* 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

* Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, Camp Pendleton.

* 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

* 4th Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Camp Pendleton.

* Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

* Detachment, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, MCAS Miramar, Calif.

* Detachment, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Camp Pendleton.

The units are deployed with the 31st MEU along with the Okinawa, Japan-based Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and the 31st MEU headquarters. The 31st MEU is commanded by Col. John Mayer.

Commandant Gen. James Conway has repeatedly said he wants Marines who deploy for seven months to spend 14 months at home before re-deploying. That goal is intended to replace the cycle of “7-7-7” rotations of Marines who deploy for seven months, spend seven months, then deploy again for seven more months.

This extension is being done to prevent the further extension of Marine units in Iraq, Delarosa said. He added that this “provides more options” for the service while sustaining operations in support of the war on terrorism.

The service traditionally sends stateside units to Japan for seven-month deployments under the Unit Deployment Program, at which point they come under the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Some of those units rotate into Iraq during that deployment, while some have remained in the Western Pacific region for the length of their deployments.

News of the extension comes as the 31st MEU, embarked on the amphibious assault ship Essex, dock landing ship Tortuga and amphibious transport dock Juneau, have been training with South Korean military forces. Elements of the 31st MEU made a goodwill visit to the Philippines and trained on Okinawa in February.

Delarosa said that Marines nearing the end of their active commitment will not be forced to stay in Japan.

“Per current policy, Marines who are nearing their end of active-duty service commitment will be rotated back to their home duty station for out-processing. However, if individual Marines volunteer to stay with their unit, they can initiate their request via the chain of command.”

The demands for additional combat troops in Iraq led to tour extensions for 4,000 Marines earlier this year, as part of President Bush’s “surge” plan. Members of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, and 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, were extended in Iraq for two to three months.

In addition, officials extended by about 45 days the deployment of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which includes 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines