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Philippine service members and U.S. Marines off-load relief supplies from a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft Dec. 15 at Davao International Airport, Mindanao, Republic of the Philippines. Marines supported Philippine-led relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Bopha, demonstrating the importance of forward-deployed Marine forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo by 1st. Lt. Jeanscott Dodd

Marines demonstrate commitment to region

20 Dec 2012 | 1st Lt. Jeanscott Dodd Marine Corps Installations Pacific

President Barack Obama made clear where the military's focus will be in coming years during his remarks on the Strategic Defense Review Jan. 5 at the Pentagon.

"We will be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific (region),” said Obama. "We're going to continue investing in our critical partnerships and alliances."

During 2012, III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific spearheaded the military's reorientation to the Asia-Pacific region. Through one humanitarian and disaster relief operation and more than 60 theater security cooperation exercises throughout the region, III MEF and MCIPAC strengthened bilateral relationships, increased interoperability of forces, and exchanged critical skill sets with partner nations.

Additionally, III MEF deployed individual augments and units to provide critical support to Operation Enduring Freedom throughout the year.

On Dec. 4, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Bopha, which left a path of destruction in its wake. On Dec. 8, III MEF was directed by U.S. Pacific Command to provide support to relief efforts. Planners with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, already in Manila planning for future training exercises, activated a forward command element and identified the need to bring in KC-130J Hercules aircraft to meet the request to transport relief supplies. Seven hours after being tasked, two KC-130Js arrived from Okinawa and began flying relief missions. III MEF conducted 22 flights and transported approximately 750,000 pounds of relief supplies Dec. 9-16 to assist recovery efforts.

The first MV-22B Ospreys to be based on Okinawa arrived Oct. 1, bringing a large increase in capability, operational reach and flexibility to the Asia-Pacific region. The Osprey can travel approximately twice as fast and four times as far as the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter it is replacing.

The III MEF and MCIPAC team built on its strong relationship with the local community through numerous community relations events, joint meetings and exchanges of information and exercises between Marines and Japan Self-Defense Force members. Local mayors and Marine leaders signed agreements to allow Japanese citizens to evacuate and first-responders to pass through Marine Corps installations in the event of emergencies.

During Exercise Cobra Gold's 31st iteration in February, 10,000 service members from more than 17 countries trained together in the Kingdom of Thailand to enhance regional peace and security while benefitting the Thai community.

Approximately 200 Marines and sailors arrived in Australia's Northern Territory April 3 as the inaugural Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. During the rotation, the Marines and sailors trained alongside Australian Defence Force members, conducted community relations events, and participated in training exercises in the region.

June 11 marked the return of the first infantry battalion to Okinawa under the unit deployment program in several years. The battalion took lessons learned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade and shared them with partner nations during exercises.

Okinawa experienced several strong typhoons in late spring and summer. However, the III MEF and MCIPAC team was well-prepared, and damage to property and the impact on the Corps' mission was minimal due to the vigilance of Okinawa's Marines, sailors and civilian employees.

Marines returned to the Pacific island of Tinian for several large-scale training exercises for the first time in over a decade. The local community responded overwhelmingly with support, and the island provided unique opportunities for III MEF to train in an expeditionary environment.

This year, III MEF and MCIPAC broke new ground in the Asia-Pacific region, sending a signal to the world that the U.S. is here and committed to a meaningful presence to ensure regional peace and stability.