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ferry" (administratively move) "not less than twelve CH-53s" from MCAS Futema to Cubi Point for transfer to the USS New Orleans (LPH 11) where they would be used as substitutes for HMM-165's CH-46s- The CH-53s were to be configured for extended range operations, equipped with the ALE-29 flare dispensers to counter heat-seeking missiles, and armed, clear signs that this was no drill. For the first time, the MAU's aviation element would be composed of the "Eagle Pull mix" (13 CH-53s, 4 CH-46s, 4 AH-lJs, and 2 UH-lEs).
Immediately upon assuming command of Task Group 79.4 (CTG 79.4/31st MAU), Colonel Twomey received orders to arrive, within the constraints of the response time, off the coast ofKampong Som (a Cambodian port on the Gulf of Thailand), and once there to conduct BLT training in preparation for the ground security force evacuation mission. Furthermore, his orders directed him to stand ready to assume the duties of the senior ground force commander for Operation Eagle Pull- By 31 July, the MAU was reconstituted and embarked on ARG Alpha shipping in Subic Bay, with orders to maintain a 70-hour reaction time to the Gulf of Thailand and a position off the coast of Cambodia.13
Just prior to the MAU's departure on 6 August 1973, Colonel Twomey and other members of the 31st MAU attended the first joint Eagle Pull planning conference hosted by the USSAG commander. Upon the group's return from the meeting in Nakhon Phanom, the amphibious ready group, with the MAU embarked, sortied from Subic Bay. Four days later, ARG Alpha/31st MAU reached its assigned holding area in the Gulf of Thailand and assumed a 12-hour alert posture. This positioning allowed the amphibious ready group/MAU a half-day to rendezvous at the prospective helicopter launch sites off Kampong Som. Seventy-two hours later, General Vogt issued his operational plan for Eagle Pull, and the next day, 14 August 1973, Colonel Twomey issued Operation Order 2-73 (Eagle Pull) in support of the ComUSSAG plan. On 26 August, General Vogt also ordered the 31st MAU to prepare for the evacuation of the Military Equipment Delivery Team (MEDTC) personnel from the Ream/Kampong Som area.14
Upon notification of their pending participation in Operation Eagle Pull, BLT 1/4 and HMM-165, the 31st MAU's subordinate elements, started detailed planning for the operation. In addition, they began to reorganize their training to make it conform more to the unusual mission, the evacuation of civilians. The BLT conducted embarkation drills and the squadron tested the helicopter launch and recovery schedule. By the end of August, the 31st MAU was ready.15
Having an original relief date of l August, the BLT and its medium helicopter squadron began to experience, towards the end of August, personnel rotation problems. They would continue to occur as long as the MAU remained on station without relief. On 30 August, the personnel problem was solved, in part, when the MAU transferred the Marines scheduled for stateside return to the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).
The USS Blue Ridge, destined for Okinawa, carried these Marines to Okinawa where the division processed and returned them by plane to the United States. Besides the confusion created by the departure of these transferees, the 31st MAU also underwent other personnel changes. Lieutenant Colonel Bertram A. Maas arrived and exchanged positions with Lieutenant Colonel Ronald L. Owen, the executive officer. The following day, the Blue Ridge completed the transfer by highlimng Lieutenant Colonel Owen and another key and experienced officer, Major Jerome T. Paull (the MAU S-2), to the USNS Tu/uga (AO 62), for further transport to Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines, and then home.16
Its tour more than complete (in fact a month overdue), BLT 1/4 and its senior commands, ARG Alpha and 31st MAU, upon receipt of new orders on 30 August, sailed for Okinawa to effect a BLT turnover. ARG Alpha plotted a course for White Beach while maintaining a 120-hour (five-day) reaction time to die Gulf of Thailand and its required Eagle Pull position off Kompong Som.17 The relief of BLT 1/4 was accomplished on 7 September when Battalion Landing Team 1/9 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Larry R. Gaboury assumed the role as the ground combat element in the 31st MAU. Lieutenant Colonel Col-bert's HMM-165 remained as the MAU's aviation element. During the transition period, Major Angelo A. Fernandez reported on board as the new 31st MAU operations officer. The turnover was accomplished smoothly, maintaining a seven-day response time (relaxed from the five-day response posture) to Kampong Som. The 120-hour reaction time was reassumed during the transit to Subic Bay during which, on 8 September, the USS TripoliTost use of its propulsion system and had to be towed to port. The problem was fixed during the next three weeks while the MAU, ashore, prepared for Operation Pagasa II, a combined landing exercise with the Philippine Marines.
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