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I Marine Expeditionary Force

In Every Clime and Place

11th Marine Expeditionary Unit visits Iwo To during transit through U.S 7th Fleet

By Capt. Joshua Diddams | I Marine Expeditionary Force | August 18, 2014

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Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit pay their respects to those who served in the battle of Iwo Jima on their way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released)

Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit pay their respects to those who served in the battle of Iwo Jima on their way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit  and Amphibious Squadron FIve hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released)

Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron FIve hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and  Amphibious Squadron Five hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released)

Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron Five hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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A Marine with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit collects volcanic debris on his way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released)

A Marine with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit collects volcanic debris on his way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron Five pose for a photo on their way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. Members of this group each had a family member serve during the battle of Iwo Jima. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released)

Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron Five pose for a photo on their way toward Mount Suribachi, Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. Members of this group each had a family member serve during the battle of Iwo Jima. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga/Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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CH-53E Super Stallions from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sit at the air station at Iwo To, Japan, as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Kenneth P. Mateo/RELEASED)

CH-53E Super Stallions from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sit at the air station at Iwo To, Japan, as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Kenneth P. Mateo/RELEASED) (Photo by Josh Diddams)


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A CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies past Mount Suribachi Aug. 16 at Iwo To, Japan, as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Kenneth P. Mateo/RELEASED)

A CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies past Mount Suribachi Aug. 16 at Iwo To, Japan, as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Kenneth P. Mateo/RELEASED) (Photo by Josh Diddams)


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Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and  Amphibious Squadron Five hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released)

Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron Five hike to Mount Suribachi during their visit to Iwo To, Japan as part of the MEU’s WESTPAC 14-2 deployment Aug. 16, 2014. The 11th MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Raga /Released) (Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga)


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USS MAKIN ISLAND, Pacific Ocean -- Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 5 were afforded a rare opportunity to visit Iwo To (formally known as Iwo Jima) while transiting through the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility Aug. 16, 2014.

Through the natural course of transit while deployed during WESTPAC 14-2, the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group sailed close enough to the remote island to make the visit possible.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force for the opportunity to visit this hallowed ground where warriors from both nations fought with honor, discipline, and devotion,” said Sgt. Maj. Troy Black, sergeant major of the 11th MEU.

For Lt. Cmdr. Bradley Hayes Abramowitz, Amphibious Squadron Five Cryptologic Resource Coordinator, and one of six members of the group whose relatives fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, the visit was especially meaningful.

“This place holds a double meaning for me,” said Abramowitz. “First, as a military historian, it represents one of the sacred locations very few have the prospect to visit. More personally, it is an opportunity to visit a location where my great-uncle, William Hayes, fought as a member of the 5th Marine Division and attempt to vicariously re-live an event that would impact him, and our family, for the rest of his life.”

With the majority of the 11th MEU’s Marines based out of Camp Pendleton, California, the chance to visit the iconic Pacific island steeped in Marine Corps lore was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“You could see how much everyone wanted to be there,” said Lance Cpl. Laura Raga, a production specialist with the 11th MEU. “Everyone wanted to climb the mountain.”

While on the island, Marines and sailors visited numerous memorials emplaced throughout the battlefield. Their route included Mt. Surubachi and the island’s famous black sand beaches.

During the 36 days of combat on Iwo To, 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for actions of the men who fought there. Admiral Nimitz further immortalized the battle with his famous summation: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

The 11th MEU deployed from San Diego on July 25 and is currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.

The MEU's major subordinate elements are Battalion Landing Team 2/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), and Combat Logistics Battalion 11. 

For more information, contact the unit's public affairs officer, Capt. Josh Diddams at joshua.diddams@makin-island.usmc.mil or visit the MEU website at www.11thmeu.marines.mil or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/11thmeu.