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The entire 31st MAU did not take part in Operation Pagasa II, but its ground element, under the operational control of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (as of 30 September 1973), participated as the landing force. Colonel Twomey assumed command of Regimental Landing Team 4 and controlled it during the exercise, which began on 29 September but ended prematurely, five days later, because of typhoon conditions.18
Faced on 3 October 1973 with the termination of Pagasa II and the imminent arrival of another dry season, the 31st MAU reassumed operational control of its subordinate units and reconstituted its aviation element using an "Eagle Pull helicopter mix." The MAU loaded the medium helicopters normally assigned to it, eight CH-46s and two UH-lEs, on the USS Denver (LPD 9) and sent them back to Okinawa.
Because of a shortage of amphibious assault ships (LPHs) in the Pacific fleet (only three for five squadrons), the LPHs operated on a rotation schedule not in synchronization with the amphibious squadron relief cycle. In October, in Subic Bay, the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) replaced the USS Tripoli(LPH 10). In order to complete the exchange of responsibilities, the two ships had to conduct a major housekeeping maneuver, a transfer of all embarked MAU elements. The move was completed smoothly with minimum disruption to the amphibious ready group's itinerary.19
During November 1973, the major training accomplished by the MAU was a helicopter landing exercise, HeloLEx 1-73. In it, ARG Alpha and the 31st MAU rehearsed one of the landing plans for Operation Eagle Pull. The aviation element flew 150 Marines into three landing zones. These troops constituted the ground security force while the 120 Marines already in position in the LZs played the role of civilian evacuees. The MAU then evacuated the Marine "civilians" to the primary receiving ship, Okinawa, to test and evaluate the effectiveness of its shipboard procedures for handling and medically treating evacuees. The MAU satisfied its exercise objectives: no significant problems were encountered in command, control, coordination, or the evacuation process.
On 24 November, ARG Alpha, with the 31st MAU embarked, sailed for Taiwan and its scheduled port visits. While enroute, the amphibious ready group encountered high winds and heavy seas. One of its ships, the USS Tuscaloosa (LST 1187, a tank landing ship), suffered damage to her bow doors, which as a result needed repair or replacement. The Tuscaloosa and the ARG proceeded directly to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Once there, the Tuscaloosa transferred all its MAU units to the amphibious transport dock ship, the USS Duluth (LPD 6), and then waited for a replacement. With the Tuscaloosa out of commission, another tank landing ship, the USS Barhour County (LST 1195), detached from ARG Bravo and sailed for Kaohsiung. Upon its arrival, the Tuscaloosa immediately fired up its boilers and headed south for Subic Bay and major repairs.
On 30 November, five days after LST 1187's departure, the entire ARG/MAU weighed anchor in Kaohsiung and set course for Okinawa where it effected a planned swap of MAU units. BLT 2/4 assumed BIT 1/9's duties as the MAU's ground combat element while HMH-462 replaced HMM-165 as the aviation component, thereby accomplishing the final turnover of 1973.2t)
Completing this evolution in the first days of December, the 31st MAU welcomed Lieutenant Colonel Carl E. Mundy.Jr., the commander of BLT 2/4, and Lieutenant Colonel Steven R. Eoulger, the commanding officer of HMH-462, on board by immediately getting underway for Subic Bay. While enroute, the MAU staff completed final planning for the impending exercises which they conducted in the Philippines near Subic. The first of these began on 5 December in the Zambales training area. By evening on that first Wednesday of December, the MAU had finished HeloLEx 2-73, a dress reharsal for the Eagle Pull helicopter option. During the next two days, the 31st MAU completed an amphibious assault exercise, ZAMEx 2-73. Also staged in the Zambales training area, it tested the BIT landing and withdrawal plan. After completing this test of the MAU's readiness, the ARG returned to Subic on Friday evening, 7 December.
The following Sunday morning, Colonel Twomey and Lieutenant Colonels Mundy and Foulger departed Cubi Point Naval Air Station for a three day Eagle Pull planning conference. Besides an important meeting with representatives of General O'Keefe's USSAG staff and Colonel Olmstead (GSF commander), the visit included a trip to Phnom Penh where the Marines saw first-hand the proposed landing zones and assembly areas. On 12 December, Colonel Twomey and a fully briefed and well prepared staff returned to Subic and ARG Alpha. A little over a week later, the ARG got underway for liberty ports in Hong Kong and Taiwan with rumors circulating that the MAU would never get to use its training, because the evacuation response time would be lengthened so much that the MAU's presence in the Gulf of Thailand would
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