III Marine Expeditionary Force

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III Marine Expeditionary Force
III MEF (2).jpg
III Marine Expeditionary Force insignia
Active1942–46, 1965–present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
TypeMarine Air-Ground Task Force
RoleForward-deployed expeditionary force
Part ofU.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific insignia.png Marine Forces Pacific
Garrison/HQCamp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan
Motto(s)Forward, Faithful, Focused
EngagementsWorld War II

Vietnam War
Persian Gulf War

Operation Provide Comfort
Operation Sea Angel
Operation Fiery Vigil
Operation Restore Hope
Global War on Terrorism

Iraq War

Operation Unified Assistance
Operation Tomodachi
Operation Damayan
Lt. Gen. James W. Bierman Jr.
Alexander Vandegrift
William R. Collins
Herman Nickerson Jr.
Donn J. Robertson
Lewis W. Walt
Robert E. Cushman Jr.
Carl W. Hoffman

III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) is a formation of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force of the United States Marine Corps. It is forward-deployed and able to rapidly conduct operations across the spectrum from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) to amphibious assault and high-intensity combat.

It maintains a forward presence in Japan and Asia to support the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (1960) and other alliance relationships of the United States. III MEF also conducts combined operations and training throughout the region in support of the National Security Strategy for Theater Security Cooperation.

The Marines and sailors of III MEF engage in more than 65 combined, bilateral and multilateral training exercises annually throughout the Asia-Pacific region, in countries including treaty allies Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. These exercises build partner capacity, develop and maintain strong regional alliances and military-to-military contacts. These exercises prepare III MEF to conduct operations ranging from major combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

III MEF has played a significant role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the region. The MEF assisted the relief efforts led by the Government of Japan during Operation Tomodachi after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. III MEF also conducted HA/DR missions in Thailand in October 2011, the Philippines in October 2010, and Indonesia in October 2009.[1] Most recently in response to the resulting humanitarian crisis from Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines in 2013, III MEF activated as Joint Task Force 505 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the Philippine government.[2] More than 2,495 tons of relief supplies were delivered, and over 21,000 people were evacuated.[3]


Commanded by a lieutenant general with its headquarters at Camp Courtney, III MEF's mission is to provide forward based and deployed forces to the commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, to conduct Phase 0 engagement and theater security cooperation events, support contingencies and emergent requirements, and prepare to rapidly execute existing operations plans in support of the theater and national military strategies.

III MEF is organized as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to provide a rapidly deployable, flexible self-contained fighting force. The Marines combine air, ground, and logistics forces to operate as a coherent, self-sufficient force. Each mission dictates the MAGTF's scale and structure, giving the Marine Corps the flexibility to respond to any crisis and making a "force in readiness." A MEF is the largest of all MAGTFs.[1]


III Marine Expeditionary Force was activated as I Amphibious Corps 1 October 1942 in Camp Elliott, San Diego, California. Later that month, they were deployed to Noumea, New Caledonia. The unit was redesignated as III Amphibious Corps 15 April 1944. III Amphibious Corps was deactivated on 10 June 1946.

III Marine Expeditionary Force was activated 6 May 1965 at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. III MEF was re-designated to III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) 7 May 1965.

III Marine Amphibious Force deployed to Camp Courtney, Okinawa April 1971. III MAF was redesignated to III Marine Expeditionary Force 5 February 1988.[1]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, III MEF was known as I Marine Amphibious Corps. It was renamed III Amphibious Corps on 15 April 1944, and took part in fighting against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific theater during World War II. It fought in some of the bloodiest battles, including the Solomon Islands campaign, the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign and the Volcano and Ryukyu Islands campaign (namely the Battle of Okinawa). III Amphibious Corps redeployed to Tientsin, China, in September 1945, where it participated in the occupation of Northern China until June 1946. III Amphibious Corps was deactivated on 10 June 1946.[1]

Camp Horn, III MAF Headquarters, Da Nang

Vietnam War[edit]

III MEF was reactivated 6 May 1965 in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam under Major General William R. Collins. 7 May 1965, III MEF was re-designated as III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) and consisted of the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The III MAF's area of operations was in the northern I Corps Tactical Zone. III MAF participated in the Vietnam War from May 1965 – April 1971 operating from Quang Tri, Thua Thien, Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai. III MAF deployed to Camp Courtney, Okinawa in April 1971.


Since III MAF was redesignated to III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) 5 February 1988, they have participated in many different operations. These operations include the Persian Gulf War's Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, as well as Operation Provide Comfort in Southwest Asia and Iraq from Sept. 1990 – April 1991 and May–June 1991. III MEF elements have also played a vital role in Operation Sea Angel in Bangladesh from May–June 1991; Operation Fiery Vigil in the Philippines June 1991; Operation Restore Hope and Operation Continue Hope in Somalia from December 1992 to March 1994. III MEF elements have also had a significant impact on the Iraq War's Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as the Global War on Terrorism's Enduring Freedom.

One of the biggest roles III MEF plays in the Asia-Pacific region is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). III MEF elements participated in Operation Unified Assistance in response to the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia from December 2004 to February 2005. III MEF has also assisted with the 2005 Kashmir earthquake response from October 2005 to March 2006; Philippine mudslide response in March and April 2006; 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake response in May and June 2006; Legazpi typhoon recovery in March 2007; 2007 Solomon Islands earthquake and tsunami response in April 2007; Operation Sea Angel II in Bangladesh from November to December 2007; Operation Caring Response in Burma from May and June 2008; Taiwan typhoon relief in August 2009; Philippine typhoon and Indonesian earthquake relief in October 2009; Philippine typhoon relief in October 2010; Operation Tomodachi in May 2011; Thailand flood relief from October through November 2011; and Philippine typhoon relief in December 2012 and again in November 2013.[4]


Structure of the III MEF

The III MEF, together with the I Marine Expeditionary Force, makes up the composition of Marine Forces, Pacific.[clarification needed]


III MEF Band[edit]

Staff Sergeant Kady Miller, leads the III Marine Expeditionary Forces Band, in the 75th Anniversary Liberation of Guam Parade, Hagatna, Guam, 21 July 2019.
III MEF Band Bass Drum Head

The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band (III MEF Band) is a USMC military band which is the official marching band of the III MEF. Being located at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, it is the sole de facto musical representative of the USMC in the eastern hemisphere. It is also one of two military bands in United States Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, with the other being the Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band (MARFORPAC Band). It commonly performs throughout the South-East Asian region, including at international military tattoos in South Korea and Japan. The band was awarded the title of 2018 Marine Corps Band of the Year in February 2018.[6][7]

The following comprises the leadership of the band:[8]

Uniquely, the band has its own mascot, which helps represent the band when on parade. The history of the use of a mascot dates back to 1974, when the commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing presented a Golden Retriever to the 1st MAW Band. On 21 June 2002, Private Chopper IV, the designated successor to the first three puppies with the same name, assumed his duties as the III MEF Band Mascot. He was replaced in November 2012 by Chopper V. Being an enlisted marine, Chopper V has the ability to be promoted in rank.[9]


Locations and units[edit]




United States[edit]


South Korea[edit]

List of commanders[edit]

No. Commander Term Ref
Portrait Name Took office Left office Term length
Lawrence D. Nicholson
Lieutenant General
Lawrence D. Nicholson
(born 1956)
11 September 20152 August 20182 years, 325 days[10]
Eric M. Smith
Lieutenant General
Eric M. Smith
2 August 201831 May 2019302 days[11]
H. Stacy Clardy
Lieutenant General
H. Stacy Clardy
(born 1960)
31 May 20199 November 20212 years, 162 days[12]
James W. Bierman Jr.
Lieutenant General
James W. Bierman Jr.
(born 1965)
9 November 2021Incumbent22 days[13]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Streamer Award Year(s) Additional Info
Navy Unit Commendation streamer.svg Navy Unit Commendation Streamer with two Bronze Stars[1] 1965–1968, 1968–1971, 2001–2003[1] Vietnam War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan[1]
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy-Marine) Streamer.jpg Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer[1] 2004–2005[1] Iraq War, War in Afghanistan[1]
Streamer APC.PNG Asiatic-Pacific Campaign[1] 1942–1946[1] World War II[1]
Streamer WWII V.PNG World War II Victory[1] 1945[1] World War II[1]
Streamer CS.PNG China Service[1] 1945–1946[1] Occupation of North China[1]
Streamer NDS.PNG National Defense Service Streamer with two Bronze Stars[1] 1961–1974, 1990–1995, 2001–present[1] Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War's Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Iraq War's Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom[1]
Streamer VS.PNG Vietnam Service Streamer with two Silver and three Bronze Stars[1] 1965–1971[1] Quang Tri, Thua Thien, Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai[1]
Streamer gwotS.PNG Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer[1] 2001–present[1]
VGCP Streamer.jpg Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Streamer[1] 1965–1971[1] Foreign award from South Vietnam[1]
Streamer RVMUCCA.PNG Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Actions Streamer[1] 1965–1971[1] Foreign award from South Vietnam[1]

Notable former members[edit]


NATO Symbol
NATO Map Symbol - Unit Size - Corps Expiditionary Force.svg
Military Symbol - Friendly Unit (Solid Light 1.5x1 Frame)- Marine Air Ground Task Force (USMC) (ADRP 1-02, 2015 Dec 07).svg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag III MEF Lineage and Honors, USMC History Division
  2. ^ DoD News, "Joint Task Force 505 Activates for Operation Damayan"
  3. ^ Lum and Margesson, "Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster"
  4. ^ Manning, "Constant Vigilance readies Kinser, community for disaster response"
  5. ^ "III MEF stands up new MEF Information Group". marines.mil.
  6. ^ "III MEF Band ends year on high note". DVIDS. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  7. ^ "III MEF Band". www.iiimef.marines.mil. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  8. ^ "III MEF Band Leaders". www.iiimef.marines.mil. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  9. ^ "III Marine Expeditionary Force > Band > Mascot". www.iiimef.marines.mil. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Nicholson takes reins of Marine Forces Japan, III MEF". Stripes.
  11. ^ "III MEF commanding general change of command ceremony". U.S. Forces Korea. 2 August 2018.
  12. ^ Landis, Francesca (31 May 2020). "III MEF Commanding General Change of Command". dvidshub.net.
  13. ^ Landis, Francesca (31 May 2020). "III MEF Commanding General". dvidshub.net.
References used

External links[edit]

Media related to III Marine Expeditionary Force at Wikimedia Commons