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Photo Information

An Amphibious Assault Vehicle driver with 3rd Platoon, Delta Compay, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, seals his AAV prior to heading out to the USS Whidbey Island March 20 at Onslow Beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Thirty-six Marines with the platoon conducted reintegration exercises from March 19 – 22 in preparation for their deployment with the Africa Partnership Station 2012 this year.

Photo by Sgt. Bryan A. Peterson

Marine Assault Amphibian Battalion preps for Africa Partnership 2012

20 Mar 2012 | Sgt. Bryan A. Peterson

Sergeant Roger F.W. Dyer is excited.

“I’ve been in (the Marine Corps) since 2007,” said the Stanford, N.Y., native, “and never once have I been deployed with the (Amphibious Assault Vehicles) in an operational environment.”

Dyer is an AAV maintenance chief with 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. He and the rest of his 36-man platoon will deploy with AAVs and put them to good use when Africa Partnership Station 2012 kicks off this summer.

Dyer recently returned from a deployment to landlocked Afghanistan, where he and the rest of his Marines spent their time on mounted and dismounted patrols with Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles.

As the Marine Corps prepares to leave Afghanistan in the future, Marines are returning to their amphibious roots, and that’s exactly what 2nd AA Bn. did when Delta Company spent March 19 – 22 conducting amphibious landing operations at Onslow Beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The Marines took the opportunity to conduct ship-to-shore operations off the USS Whidbey Island when the ship was travelling back to Norfolk, Va., from Savannah, Ga.

Once a year, or twice if 2nd AA Bn. is lucky, a naval ship will sail the Atlantic Ocean conducting operations, and if the ship’s schedule permits, amphibious training can commence.

Captain Jose I. Colunga, Delta Company commanding officer and a Holland, Mich., native, said 2nd AA Bn. takes advantage any time a ship is in the area, and the battalion literally drops its current plans to perfect their amphibious marksmanship.

“The (USS Whidbey Island) was on its way back from (off the coast of) Georgia, and we were notified by the (2nd Marine Division) operations,” said Colunga. “They were more than willing (to accommodate) because we need to remain proficient in ship-to-shore operations. The Navy also uses this as a training opportunity as well, because we can help them in their well-deck operations.”

Second Lt. Matt J. Tharp, the 3rd Platoon commander and a Chicago native, has been with 2nd AA Bn. for a year, and part of the week’s training was to certify platoon commanders in their ability to successfully conduct beach raids.

Tharp believed the training they received will better prepare the platoon to effectively work with African countries.

“This (training) is really the bread and butter of AAV operations,” said Tharp. “The whole point of AAVs is to conduct ship-to-shore (operations). When we don’t have ships, we take our vehicles out in the ocean and turn around, get in a formation, turn around and head back to assault the beach. This is good training.”

Only 3rd Platoon will go on deployment to Africa, but Tharp said this is training that all AAV crewman need to have.

“We can only take a certain amount of Marines on APS (2012),” Tharp added. “Everyone needs to stay proficient.”

The Marines began the training by conducting water integrity checks, to ensure the vehicle is completely sealed. Then, one by one, all 15 AAVs sailed for an hour to the USS Whidbey Island four miles out.

The Marines worked with the Navy to conduct well-deck operations for an hour before heading back to the shore. Let the raid begin.

Tharp described the raid as a “center beach on time” operation. The AAVs are massed into a tactical formation, spanning the distance of a football field between each vehicle, more or less. He said the vehicles needed to be in the right sequence and have a lane that had been cleared to hit the “exact location at the exact right time” off a moving ship.

“We will have Marines from (5th Bn., 10th Marine Regiment) with us as our (Ground Combat Element), as well as other countries’ soldiers (during Africa Partnership Station 2012),” Tharp added. “When I mention center beach on time, that’s exactly how it needs to be. We are not doing just one or two raids this week. We are doing as many as the Navy will allow us to do.

“We are mechanizing the ground element, so we have to be precise,” added Tharp.

This will be Dyer’s first rodeo deploying with AAVs in an operation and, even though it’s not in a combat environment, needless to say, he said he’s looking forward to be doing what he’s been trained to do.

“This will be a break from kinetic activity we took in Afghanistan,” said Dyer. “Even though we’re going to be training other countries’ militaries, really, this is going to be a training tool for us. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Africa Partnership Station 2012 is part of an ongoing international effort to assist African nations to improve maritime safety and security. The security cooperation initiative, now in its fifth year, is aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa, according to the U.S. Africa Command web site.