USS Blue Ridge, off the coast of the Republic of Korea -- Approximately 70 Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force embarked the USS Blue Ridge from Busan, Republic of Korea on Aug. 17, in preparation for exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2013.
The Marines flew from their forward-deployed location in Okinawa, Japan, to Busan join the exercise as command and control elements, planners and liaisons on ship. Approximately 170 other servicemembers with III MEF are participating from other locations across Japan and the Republic of Korea. “III MEF is an excellent force to respond to any situation in the Asia-Pacific region because it provides a scalable and ‘tailorable’ capability that can be rapidly employed,” said Lt. Col. Neil Ahearn, current operations officer, III MEF (Forward). “We provide the theater commander with an expeditionary capability to respond to emergent crises.” The Marines aboard the USS Blue Ridge give the commanding general of III MEF continuity of operations, providing command and control at sea, closer to a potential operation than other Japan-based locations.
“Our commanding general can relocate to his location at sea and maintain his ability to command and control effectively,” said Ahearn. “The Navy Marine Corps team provides this unique amphibious capability.”
UFG is an annual training event, not tied to current events, which is designed to ensure readiness to defend the Republic of Korea and sustain the capabilities that strengthen the alliance. “The Marine Corps is known for always being ready,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Lars M. Luther, current operations chief, III MEF (Fwd). “If the call comes, we will join our Republic of Korea allies and get the job done effectively and efficiently.” Approximately 3,000 personnel from the U.S. and bases in the Pacific region are participating in the ongoing exercise, and join more than 28,500 U.S. forces already stationed on the peninsula. UFG is carried out in the spirit of the Republic of Korea and U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty signed on Oct. 1, 1953, and further contributes to training and enabling of the Republic of Korean military taking the lead for their combined defense in 2015.