MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For more than ten years, Marines have been performing operations on the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, far away from any of the naval ships the Corps was originally created to protect and serve aboard. Exercise Bold Alligator has been preparing Marines to return to their amphibious roots with several training events all along the east coast.
Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and the Combat Logistics Battalion 26 recently performed a training assault on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Onslow Beach. They drove their amphibious assault vehicles and several hundred tons of equipment and weapons onto the sand before moving on for future land operations in the area.
“Our mission was to perform an amphibious assault for follow on missions in the area,” said Sgt. Shane Cooley from CLB 26, 2nd Marine Division. “For the CLB our mission was to get all of the gear across Onslow Beach and provide any combat logistical support that was needed.”
Cooley explained that in the scenario they were training on Onslow Beach which had already been secured and belonged to the Marines. Their mission was to get everything the Marines would need off the ships and on shore.
“Bold Alligator is trying to get Marines back to their roots in the water and there is a lot of planning that has to go into that,” said Cooley. “All of the service members here are proving that Marines are specialists. Even the ones that have been serving in collateral billets or in dry environments like Iraq and Afghanistan are capable of coming out here and doing their craft.”
For several days, the Marines and sailors taking part in the operation have been working without pause to make the most of the training event, as well as prepare for more training and an eventual deployment.
“This is a good opportunity for us, because we support the (Marine Expeditionary Unit), but we haven’t actually (fallen under) the MEU’s command yet,” said Maj. James Zepko, the executive officer battalion for CLB 26. “So this is an excellent opportunity to get some amphibious training before we actually deploy with the MEU, where it’s not training, but the real thing.”
A MEU is an expeditionary quick reaction unit that is deployed across the oceans and to the shores of other countries as a ready response for a crisis. Many of the Marines and sailors taking part in Bold Alligator are preparing to deploy with such units.
“So far everything has been going pretty smoothly. We haven’t had any equipment failures and even the weather has been cooperating,” said Chief Warrant Officer Tina Figueiredo, the officer in charge of the Beach Master naval unit. “Our job is to make sure all the craft coming on shore from the naval craft are coming in correctly, so we can avoid any casualties or losses of equipment. Even though this is just a training exercise the danger is still very real and everyone has been working nonstop to ensure we can complete the mission successfully without any problems.”
Despite the dangers everyone has been diligently working with confidence in their capabilities and the capabilities of their fellow service members. It’s a work ethic that has successfully carried them through the ongoing trials of the operation.
“We have Marines that have served on previous MEUs as well as new Marines who have not had a chance to do this kind of training before,” said Zepko. “All of our Marines have been very flexible and doing exceptional work. Many of them have had to adapt to new equipment and a new training environment. Across the board everyone involved in this operation have been doing excellent work.”