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bic Bay for turnover of ARG Alpha shipping. At Subic Bay, the changeover was accomplished on 14 and 15 February. The ships of Amphibious Squadron 5, amphibious cargo ship Mobile (LKA 115), dock landing ship Mount Vernon (LSD 39), and the tank landing ship Barhour County (LST 1195), were relieved by Amphibious Squadron 7's ships, amphibious cargo ship St. Louis (LKA 116), dock landing ship, Fort Fisher (LSD 40), and tank landing ship Bristol County (LST 1189). The Okinawa (LPH 3) remained as the ARG's amphibious assault ship. Additionally, Colonel Douglas T. Kane relieved Colonel Twomey as the commanding officer of the 31st MAU on 16 February 1974.
On 22 February, as a result of the stabilization of the situation in and around Phnom Penh, the 31st MAU/ARG Alpha's Eagle Pull response time was relaxed to 96 hours. As the situation in Cambodia continued to improve, the reaction time changed accordingly, and on l March, CinCPac assigned a response time of 120 hours.23
On 16 March, III MAF notified the 31st MAU that the possibility existed of a compromise of Eagle Pull, but also added that it considered the likelihood remote. Two weeks later, the 31st MAU and its units reembarked in ARG Alpha shipping and departed for Okinawa where BLT 2/4 and its logistic support unit (LSU) disembarked. Ill MAF returned operational control of these units to the 4th Marines, and the next day detached Battalion Landing Team 1/4, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Davis, Jr., and its LSU. Under the operational control of the 31st MAU, BLT 1/4 began the loading of its gear on the waiting ships of ARG Alpha. The 120-hour (five-day) response time to Kompong Som was further relaxed to 132 hours during this period in order to allow the MAU sufficient time to conduct the BLT/LSU replacement.
Less than a week after the switch, the 31st MAU/ARG Alpha departed Okinawa in two formations. On 5 April, elements of the 31st MAU embarked in the Okinawa (LPH 3) arrived in Subic Bay, and unloaded cargo in preparation for an LPH turnover. The rest of the MAU, in the remainder of ARG Alpha shipping, began its visits to Taiwanese ports. By the evening of the 6th, the LPH swap was complete and the 31st MAU's LPH units were on board a new amphibious assault ship, the USS New Orleans (LPH II).24
On 23 May, in view of the fact that the military and political situation in Cambodia appeared more stable, CinCPac authorized the 31st MAU to further relax the response time for Eagle Pull to 168 hours (one week). Meanwhile, 31st MAU received approval to send two representatives in June on an orientation visit to Nakhon Phanom and Phnom Penh.
Although this visit was important, one situation far overshadowed it, looming larger with each passing day. The CH-53s had been on board ship almost continuously for over a year. Regardless of maintenance efficiency, continuous, long-term exposure to salt air causes aircraft structural materials to corrode at a faster than normal rate. The overriding need to remedy this problem combined with stable conditions in Cambodia precipitated a decision to exchange helicopter squadrons. Major General Herman Poggemeyer, Jr., the Commanding General, III MAF ordered the replacement of HMH-462, thereby returning the MAU to a Standard helicopter inventory. To accomplish this, the New Orleans sailed to Okinawa where on 20 June, HMM-164 replaced HMH-462. The New Orleans, with the new helicopter squadron embarked, departed for Subic Bay, arriving there on 22 June 1974. During the helicopter turnover, the other ships of ARG Alpha remained at Subic Bay until relieved by Amphibious Squadron 3. The Fort Fisher, St. Louis, and Bristol County were relieved by dock landing ship Monticel-lo (LSD 35), amphibious landing ship Tulare (LKA 112), and tank landing ships Fresno (LST 1182) and San Bemardino (LST 1189).25
This exchange ushered in two months of training which coincided with a calm period in Cambodia and the rainy season- On 13 August, a turnover of the MAU's ground combat element occurred when Lieutenant Colonel Edwin J. Godfrey's Battalion Landing Team 3/4 relieved BLT 1/4. HMM-164, on board the New Orleans, remained in place. During the replacement period, the reaction time to Kompong Som coastal waters continued to be 168 hours.
Less than three weeks later, the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George P. Slade, began its predeployment training on Okinawa in order to meet a scheduled departure date of 12 December 1974- There was evidence that during the coming dry season, the Communist forces would make an all-out effort to crush the Cambodian Army and destroy the Republic, thus increasing the probability that the evacuation would take place while BLT 2/4 was afloat. Lieutenant Colonel Slade adjusted his training accordingly; emergency evacuation became the byword of his battalion. The CH-53s of HMH-462, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James L. Bolton and also scheduled for deployment in December, be-
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