Setting the Example: 31st MEU Marines clean up Kin Blue beach

August 14, 2020

Reveille was at 0530 on the morning of July 25th; platoon internal training with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1 concluded the night prior. The Marines were all tired and ready to go home, but CAAT 1 had one more task to complete.

After spending three full days and nights patrolling and practicing basic infantry skills in the heat, CAAT 1 spent the morning clearing the beach from trash and debris that had washed up on the beach over time. Marines and Sailors that use the training area are expected to clean it after the completion of training, but CAAT 1 decided to take it a step further and clean the beach and all the washed-up trash as well. The Marines were happy to volunteer and show appreciation to the community.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all personnel assigned to the 31st MEU are required to maintain a strict bubble; interactions between MEU and non-MEU personnel were strictly prohibited following the appearance of case clusters throughout Okinawa. While unable to interact with anyone from the local community, the Marines of CAAT 1 hope to demonstrate gratefulness and respect for the island whenever possible through simple actions.

“Our goal is to inspire the units that come after us to demonstrate service through action in order to strengthen the bond between the Marine Corps and the people of Okinawa.” Gunnery Sgt. Steven Habon, CAAT 1 platoon sergeant

Although Kin Blue is a training area, once a year in March the beach is opened up to the public for an event called “Hama Uri.” At the traditional Okinawan event, women go to the ocean to purify themselves by dipping their feet and hands in the water, and to pray for their health. Camp Hansen and Kin Town have been opening Kin Blue to local residents during Hama Uri for over 20 years.

“With all the negativity going on in the world, even one positive action can help in a major way,” said Sgt. Collin Rogers, a squad leader with CAAT 1. “As leaders, we can’t just think about ourselves.”

According to Rogers, after the completion of the training, CAAT 1 cleaned the entire training area as expected. Noticing the beach was covered in trash that had washed up from the ocean, CAAT platoon leadership decided to leave the beach better than they found it in order to demonstrate respect for the environment they are allowed to operate in.

Gunnery Sgt. Steven Habon, platoon sergeant of CAAT 1, wants his up and coming leaders to know that this is the expectation for how Marine leaders are to act.

Cleanup Photo by Lance Cpl. Kolby Leger

“Hopefully we become the example for the battalion,” said Habon, “Our goal is to inspire the units that come after us to demonstrate service through action in order to strengthen the bond between the Marine Corps and the people of Okinawa.”

“It really was a great way to end training,” said Sgt. Michael Asbell, a squad leader. “Given the current circumstances, I don’t think there’s a better way to show respect to the community.” The Marines of the 31st MEU hope that by similar actions, they can continue to express gratitude for the opportunity to be in Okinawa.

The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region. The 31st MEU has implemented strict health protection measures and will continue to conduct mission essential training in support of regional security and stability.