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Marines return to Tinian for exercise Tandem Thrust '03

By Lance Cpl. Dustin M. Rawls | | May 22, 2003

In 1944 the United States was involved in a war in which every move counted. One of the most defining moves made by the United States was the taking of the island Tinian, a small island north of Guam and south of Saipan.

The island was, of course, taken by Marines. The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions coordinated a successful two pronged attack on the Japanese forces holding the island. It was thought of as one of the great operations of World War II .

"The Tinian operation was probably the most brilliantly conceived and executed operation in World War II," said then-5th Fleet commander, Adm. Raymond A. Spruance.

Almost 60 years later, Marines returned to the shores of Tinian and Guam to participate in exercise Tandem Thrust '03 from April 14 through May 5.

Tandem Thrust is a U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored biennial exercise designed to test the 7th Fleet staff's ability to effectively plan and execute crisis contingency response operations as a joint task force.

Marines from all over the Corps joined servicemembers from all branches of the U.S. military for a command and fleet training exercise. Australian and Canadian forces also participated in the exercise.

Many Marines that participated helped to form the support element, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) participated in the exercise as the main body of the ground combat element.

Marines with the support element were based in Guam and were welcomed by the local people with open arms, said Carl Peterson, Chairman for the Armed Forces Committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

"It has a tremendous impact effecting the economy dramatically," he said.

Throughout Tandem Thrust, the MEU conducted training evolutions both on Guam and Tinian. Each evolution presented different situations for the MEU. Among the scenarios encountered were a noncombatant evacuation operation, a direct action exercise and an airfield seizure.

More than 200 Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU (SOC), deployed to Guam from the USS Essex (LHD-2), conducted the NEO April 25.

A mock NEO allows Marines to train in situations that would call for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and designated personnel from a hostile area to friendly territory.

"The way we run a mock NEO is the exact way it would be run in a real-world situation," said Capt. Neil A. Peterson, spokesperson, 31st MEU. "Performing scenarios such as this is what makes the 31st MEU a special operations capable unit."

The airfield seizure was conducted May 1 on the island Tinian.

According to Staff Sgt. Sau Moana, Echo Company weapons platoon sergeant, 31st MEU (SOC), Marines  flooded the shores of Tinian from the air and sea to encounter soldiers of the 25th Army Infantry division in the airfield seizure. The northern end of the island was swept from east to west and then the Marines pushed south, suppressing any opposing forces. After the airfield was secure, a perimeter was set up.

Marines said preparing for real-world situations is at the crux of any exercise.

"You have to take the training seriously. In a real-world situation, it's a matter of life or death," said Lance Cpl. Aaron Vergasa, E Co. machine gunner, 31st MEU (SOC).

Moana added, "Training gets the mission accomplished  it's that simple."

In the past, the exercise has been held in Queensland, Australia and is  scheduled to return there in 2005.

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