WestPac 82-83 USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) Comm Plt HQ Co 31st MAU (Pfc Callahan top left - Pfc Brown D. A. top right in green shirt w/o cover - Pfc Schwabach in white shirt). After Australia and on route to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. We were tentatively going to Somalia (N. Somalia - Berbera, Somalia) but at this photo it wasn't yet final for a few days we were awaiting final word and messing around. This looks like a final time wearing our Pacific uniform. In the Indian Ocean we wore the green 31st MAU shirts and usually shorts.
In the Philippines we were told by our Comm Plt 1st Lieutenant officer in charge that we were being diverted from Thailand to Somalia. I remember that night and the look on our Lt's face when the announcement was made. Though it wasn't for certain and didn't become official until after we left Diego Garcia our Comm and HQ Officers did consistently have the best information and myself and several others had few doubts that we were headed to Somalia some on the deployment weren't so sure until Diego Garcia.
Another reason for the immediate importance of our particular Westpac 82-83 deployment was that it had international implications. Just prior to the deployment the American USN Captain of the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) was replaced with British Royal Navy officer.
In our 1982 Marine Corps Birthday Ball at Perth/Freemantle, Australia our MAU Commanding Office Col. Macaulay gave his ceremonial position as highest ranking Marine Officer to the Royal Navy officer. When I was the representing Marine PFC in our 1982 31st MAU Birthday Ball I was standing near a British Royal Navy officer and not our MAU Commander.
I was also standing next to the same (LHA-3) British Royal Navy officer on deck when we arrived at Somalia, and when we recovered the Recon/SEAL team (when I took the photo) and later in the well-deck when a small Somali contingent rowed out to our ship and presented the ship's Captain the British Royal Navy officer with Somali tribal gifts and threats/warnings. I was also on deck later at the Strait of Hormuz. We also had received an Arab delegation [an early part of the later Desert Storm Coalition] on ship while off the coast of Oman.
The importance and international implications of our deployment were known and felt throughout our Westpac deployment. However the deployment itself was so complicated, massive (eventually 2 USN aircraft carrier groups), international in scope, and so hastily conducted [our Comm Plt 1st Lt and several other of our MAU officers left the deployment in Australia before Somalia - we went to Somalia/Oman without our Comm Plt Officer] that much of what we did and accomplished including the fact that we haven't yet received our medals has been swept aside and neglected to this day.
*Note: our outstanding 31st MAU Comm Plt 1st Lt and several other MAU staff in recognition of their exceptional and completed 31st MAU service time were rewarded by extending their time on the MAU past the Philippines until Australia where they visited New Zealand and then (while we were under way to Diego Garcia) processed out of the 31st MAU and back to the USA at their leisure and convenience from Australia instead of the usual processing out of the Philippines. It happened to leave us without a replaced officer and short some staff for Somalia/Oman but as is the case with well trained units they had the leadership and a system in palace that continued to carry us through a difficult deployment. Though I can't help but think that we wouldn't have gotten the raw deal we have received [i.e. our medals not awarded] had our original MAU staff remained intact and functioning throughout the deployment. ~ David Anson Brown