USS Essex Embarks 31st MEU UNITED STATES - 30 JANUARY 2011 USS Essex (LHD 2) embarked more than 1,200 Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Jan. 27-28, in preparation for a patrol throughout the Western Pacific region. During the on-load, the USS Essex Combat Cargo department loaded more than 100 vehicles and 300 pieces of equipment from the MEU's battalion landing team, ground combat element, aviation combat element and combat logistics battalion (CLB). "The on-load is new for everyone on this crew," said Gunnery Sgt. Steven R. Jones, USS Essex senior combat cargo assistant. "We finished ahead of schedule, which is rare with a new crew. For a ship this size, it usually takes three days to load, but this time it took half the time." Chief Warrant Officer Scott R. Allison, USS Essex combat cargo officer, also praised the efficient handling of the MEU on-load. "It went smooth, actually pretty outstanding â€“ one of the quickest on-loads the ship has done," he said. "Combat cargo Marines come from multiple military occupation specialties and have only about 10 days of training," Jones said. "We have a good team. Everyone did what they were supposed to do." While seasoned veterans comprise much of the MEU, the patrol will provide many Marines with their first taste of life aboard a Navy ship. "I'm looking forward to the training exercises and seeing some of the different countries we're going to be visiting," said Lance Cpl. Dustin S. Delosh, 31st CLB. The patrol will feature a series of maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between U.S. and Western Pacific partner nations. Essex Sailors, along with the 31st MEU, will train with forces throughout the region. Essex, commanded by Capt. David Fluker, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is underway in the Western Pacific region. EAST CHINA SEA (Jan. 26, 2011) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Daniel Tesauro directs a Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). USS Essex is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the western Pacific Ocean. EAST CHINA SEA (Jan. 26, 2011) Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jonathan J. Connor, right, loads a RIM-7P Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile into a launcher aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). USS Essex is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the western Pacific Ocean.