Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune -- The cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean washed over the aluminum hulls of Amphibious Assault Vehicles as they crashed through rolling waves on a course to rendezvous with the USS Kearsarge. More than 50,000 pounds of metal, cruising at speeds up to ten knots, prepared to enter the belly of the ship.
Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, conducted well-deck qualification training with the Kearsarge in the waters off the coast of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, July 31.
The exercise qualified the battalion to conduct boarding and deploying operations from a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and assisted the crew of the Kearsarge in completing their Advanced Naval Warfare training at the same time. More than a dozen AAVs were embarked at sea and then re-deployed from the ship’s well-deck, providing valuable experience in inter-service cooperation.
“It’s really important for us as an amphibious unit to work well with the Navy,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Ullman, section leader with 2nd AA Bn, and a native of Dallas, Texas. “Amphibious operations were less of a focus due to the type of war we’ve been fighting (in Iraq and Afghanistan). Today is about getting Marines back to the basics, back to our roots.”
As the U.S. military draws down its forces in the Middle East, the Marine Corps is refocusing on the Pacific and returning to its amphibious origins. Training events like this are not common, making the experience invaluable to the Marines.
“We don’t get do to the ship operations as a training exercise often,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Lancaster, an assault amphibious vehicle crewman and native of Kokomo, Indiana. “We need this training to qualify for amphibious warfare, and to get us ready for the Unit Deployment Program.”
The crew of the Kearsarge also used Landing Craft Air Cushioned vessels, or LCACs, to embark M1A1 Abrams Tanks from 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, as they continued training operations along the coast with other Marine units for several days before returning to its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.
“It was a good training experience,” said Ullman. “Overall, it’s about helping the younger Marines and sailors get the experience they need to do their jobs, and the relationship we build now helps pay dividends later for future exercises.”