MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The rough ocean water continuously smashed down on the assault amphibian vehicles as Marines with Company B, Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division conducted their ship operations training here Jan. 9-11.
The Marines performed day and night amphibious training, driving to and from the USS Whidbey Island located off the Carolina coast.
“The reason we were doing this training was because a lot of our Marines have not conducted ship operations due to their rotations to Iraq,” explained 1st Lt. Jonathan Morris, the officer-in-charge of the training.
Morris said conducting ship operations is one of the most complicated things to do with AAVs because of the amount of coordination it takes to complete it.
The training was meant to enhance the Marines maneuvering capabilities, coordination and overall accountability with Navy counterparts.
Morris explained that although amphibious operations are not a big part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is still important for the “trackers,” as AAV crewmen are commonly called, to be prepared for any type of operation.
“Our main focus recently has been Iraq, but amphibious operations are still a big part of what we do, and it is important that we are prepared for any type of environment,” said Morris, a Chiapas, Mexico native.
The Marines conducted both still-ship and moving-ship drops with AAVs, plunging off the ship and driving to the shore then back during both day and night.
“The younger Marines definitely got a feel for what it’s like to be in the water, and for some of the more experienced Marines, it was a refresher since they hadn’t been in the water in a while,” explained Morris, a 2002 graduate of the University of West Florida.
One of those more experienced Marines was Cpl. Brian D. Viegra, 24, an AAV crewman who has not been in the water since late 2003.
“This was definitely a good experience for the younger Marines because it gives them the chance to drive in the water,” said the Buhler, Kan. native. “This is our job, and this training was to teach them the basic fundamentals of water operations since most of them have only experienced driving an AAV in the desert and urban areas.”
Viegra said when driving an AAV in the water, staying on line can be very difficult.
“The hardest thing is staying on line with the other vehicles when you’re assaulting a beach, it’s hard to tell if you’re lined up with the others,” he said.
Overall, the Marines of Company B agreed that the ship operation training was a good way to get their feet wet again.
“I explained to the Marines that although our focus is still Iraq, that focus could still change and before you know it, we will need to get back in the water,” Morris explained. “This was a way for the Marines to get better at maneuvering in the water and coordinating with the Navy during ship ops.”