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Photo Information

Sgt. William J. Puckett, an assault amphibious crew chief with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, watches from the turret of his AAV as Marines with his unit conduct a Gator Square after disembarking from the USS Whidbey Island off the coast of Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 10, 2014. Alpha Company Marines spent two days on Onslow Beach testing their AAV’s before taking them out to sea to board the USS Whidbey Island in order to conduct ship operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin Updegraff / Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justin Updegraff

Attack of the Tracks: 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion conducts ship operation

23 Sep 2014 | Lance Cpl. Justin Updegraff

Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, conducted ship operations near Onslow Beach, North Carolina, with the USS Whidbey Island Sept. 9 and 10.

Marines with the unit conducted a ship-to-shore, beach assault in a platoon-sized formation consisting of nine to twelve assault amphibious vehicles.

Due to the high risk of training in the ocean, the Marines conducted pre-operation checks to ensure the AAVs were ready and safe to deploy into the ocean.

“Working in the water is the most dangerous thing we do, and it’s one of the more dangerous operations that you can conduct in a training environment,” said 1st Lt. Shane C. Reardon, a platoon commander with Alpha Company, 2nd AABn. “If something goes wrong on the ocean, there’s not a whole lot of places you can turn for help.”

Just off the beach, Alpha Co. Marines splashed, a term used for launching into water, as a way to test the seaworthiness of the AAVs. After checking their vehicles for any discrepancies while still near the beach, the Marines headed out to link up with the ship.

The AAVs boarded the USS Whidbey Island while still in the ocean and prepared to conduct Gator Squares and Dynamic Launch training from the ship. Gator Squares consist of a platoon of AAVs launching off the ship one by one, navigating a square path, and driving back onto the ship.

“A dynamic launch is when the ship launches the AAVs while it’s underway,” said Reardon. “Then the ship would direct us towards the beach for an assault.”

During the dynamic launch, the USS Whidbey Island ran parallel to the shore with its stern gate down. The submersible ramp served as an open gateway for the AAVs staged within the ship and allowed them to conduct amphibious operations quickly.

One by one the AAVs departed the ship. With all of the assault vehicles in the water, the formation turned right and faced the beach to continue the attack.

These ship operations, as well as other training the Marines conducted at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, helped maintain the unit’s amphibious preparedness and readied it for future deployments.

“Versatility is the key to our ability to deploy … should we need to take a hostel beach, we still have that capability,” said Reardon. “So harking back to Tarawa or Inchon, where we had to take a hostile beach, we’re fully capable of doing that.”