FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The warm Caribbean waters lapped up on the Sunshine State’s coastline, bringing with it the usual helping of seashells, kelp and … Marines?
From May 6-7, during the McDonald’s Air and Sea Show, the midday sun beat down on more than the usual crowd of tan-seeking tourists and citizens in Fort Lauderdale. Joining them were leathernecks of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, who set sail aboard the USS Shreveport earlier in the week. Their mission in the tropical lands: simulate seizing a beach before millions of bedazzled spectators to showcase the Marine Corps’ combined arms and amphibious assault capabilities.
Four Assault Amphibian Vehicles, or “amtracks,” were flanked by throngs of admirers when they waded onto the shore to offload a contingent of Marines.
Upon landing, the first warriors dashed out from the rear door of each armored behemoth, took a knee behind their vehicles, then looked down the sights of their rifles to assess the terrain for enemy danger.
Their comrades followed, sprinting from their AAVs toward the assembled media, throwing themselves into a prone position on line and aiming their rifles downrange. Meanwhile, Marine helicopters soared overhead, providing close air support for the ground-pounders as they finished assaulting the beachhead.
Mission accomplished, as the rapid clicking of media camera shutters and hundreds of cheers and catcalls erupting from the crowds seemed to indicate.
Altogether, 43 Marines from the battalion’s Company C and Headquarters and Service Company participated in the demonstration. They had traveled hundreds of miles from their home base of Camp Lejeune, N.C., but this was an opportunity the Marines were all too glad to take.
“Marines don’t get much publicity, so this is a good chance for the public to see what we do,” stated Gunnery Sgt. Gernard Smith, Mobility/Counter Mobility Platoon’s platoon sergeant. “A lot of people here in South Florida don’t see the Marine Corps (in these capacities).”
Echoing this positive attitude was Cpl. Alex Chavez, an AA Battalion supply warehouse clerk, who served as an infantryman for this capabilities exercise.
“The fact that a lot of people come out and see what we do makes you seem appreciated,” Chavez stated, who added that he spent some of his down time enjoying downtown Fort Lauderdale’s nightclub attractions. “I’d do this all over again if I could because it’s really nice and the people treat you really well.”
Following the demonstration, the Marines formed up in front of the media cameras, ready for their photo opportunity. Shortly thereafter, an Army Golden Knight Para jumper leapt from 12,500 feet in the air with the United States flag unfurled and trailing behind his black and gold chute. The Marines saluted as the ensign gradually descended and the national anthem was sung.
With hands over their hearts, many in the audience stood up and smiled as they enjoyed the last part of this beach assault event.
“It was cool, seeing all the guys jump out with their guns,” said Tyler Phillips, a 13-year-
old from West Palm Beach, Fla. “It was fun to come out to this show.”
After their show, the Marines headed out into the crowds while the Golden Knights continued their aerial acrobatics. They signed autographs, posed for photos and took off their flak jackets to put them on curious children.
“We’re having fun out here,” said Sgt. Tory Hubbard, an AAV crew chief. “It’s a good way to meet people and show them what we’re about. Any time you get to do something for the kids is awesome.”
Community interaction and fun in the sun were the themes during the two days, whether the Marines swapped war stories with the old military veteran spectators or signed autographs for their children and grandchildren.
The Air and Sea Show capped off Fort Lauderdale’s Fleet Week USA, an annual event rife with humanitarian projects, hospital and school visits, and military appreciation parties the community holds to meet and honor the armed forces. The two-day show also featured performing acts such as the Navy’s Blue Angels, numerous Air Force fighter jet flybys and the Canadian Snowbirds aerial demonstration team