OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Okinawa, April 27, to embark Sailors and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), for their annual Spring Patrol throughout East and Southeast Asia.
The 31st MEU embarked Essex as part of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESX ESG) with more than 1,500 Marines, Sailors and their equipment.
Essex Sailors and Marines along with the 31st MEU Landing Support Detachment worked diligently to on-load and store more than 1,500 tons of supplies, vehicles and weapon systems in spaces aboard Essex. The cargo was sorted and arranged for quick off-load to support amphibious operations.
During the extensive on-load, Marines and Sailors worked as a team using cranes, forklifts and other equipment to move gear into the living quarters and work centers as well as working to ensure all cargo was secured for sea.
"The on-load went very well, all the vehicles and cargo are where they needed to be," said Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Chaffin. "Everything was staged on the pier ready for us to unload to the ship when we pulled in making the transition from shore to ship easy."
As Marines boarded the ship, they asked Sailors about what they might expect to see in Thailand since this is a first trip for most. The Marines will particpate in exercise Cobra Gold, which is an annual bilateral exercise with Thailand. The exercise is designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between the two partner nations.
"I'm looking forward to working with the Thai military and learning some of their tactics as well as survival skills," said Lance Cpl. Spencer Rumfelt. "I have heard a lot of stories about some of the survival training and am looking forward to seeing it."
For Essex Sailors, trips to Thailand are less of a rarity but still welcome none the less.
"This is going to be my last deployment with Essex and I am happy to be able to see Thailand and Hong Kong again one last time," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) 3rd Class Frank Rodriguez. "In the air department we work very closely with the Marines on a daily basis and it's good to have them back on board."
Essex departed Sasebo, Japan for its spring patrol throughout the Western Pacific region, Jan. 24.
For more news from USS Essex, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd2/.