26th MEU(SOC) Marines, Sailors inventive

25 Jul 2000 | Cpl. Derek Shoemake

Editor's Note: Dispatches is a new weekly column written by members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s Public Affairs Office to highlight this unit's Marines and Sailors during their deployment to the Mediterranean region.

Every night, like clockwork, I crawl into my rack (bed) here on USS Saipan and read via the florescent lamp mounted two feet above my head.
Every night, like clockwork, I forget about the lamp, try to sit up and smack my head against it's casing. That skull-on-metal thud is always followed by the laughter of many of the 13 men who share that section of our living compartment with me.

So goes life aboard ship.

It is in a place like this where common comforts so often treated as necessities are exchanged in the name of things like available space, water conservation and sea worthiness.

It's a living challenge that Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) laugh at. Walk into any of the Marine office spaces aboard USS Saipan and you'll see the wooden boxes normally used to transport gear transformed into desks or shelves. In our own office, we have a camera tripod suspended from the ceiling with heavy-duty cord. (This also doubles as a pull-up bar.) In the various living areas, Marines have turned ponchos into privacy curtains, pipes into shelves and, my personal favorite: using overhead rafters to store bicycles.

I'm convinced that given enough time, Marines could use heavy-duty cord and duct tape to build their own Naval vessel.

Perhaps the subject-matter expert on what Marines and Sailors can do aboard ship would be Sgt. David Fraser, who was recently awarded the Navy Commendation Medal. Sergeant Fraser is known as the grand old man of the 26th MEU(SOC), as this will be his fifth deployment with the expeditionary unit.

In addition to making wise use of their space and equipment, Marines also make wise use of their time while aboard ship. Rugby, soccer and boxing teams are beginning to practice aboard USS Saipan.

During our passage across the Atlantic Ocean, two of the three ships within our Amphibious Ready Group, USS Saipan and USS Austin, were busy holding Corporal's Courses for those newly promoted to the noncommissioned officer ranks. The top students were, from USS Saipan: honor graduate, Cpl. Brandy Kumpla, Floral, Mt. native; Gung Ho award, Cpl. Julie Simon, Milwaukee, Wis., native; USS Austin: honor graduate, Cpl. Joshua Coale, Burnt Prarie, Ill., native; leadership award, Cpl. Timothy West, Mechanicsburg, Ohio, native.

Speaking of those newly promoted, I'd like to extend hardy congratulations to Cpl. Michael Anderson, from our MEU Service Support Group 26. He became the 26th MEU(SOC)'s newest meritorious sergeant Aug. 2.

I've also been getting a lot of emails asking how to get in contact with the Marines and Sailors of the 26thMEU(SOC). For those with Marines or Sailors on USS Saipan, write:

(Your Marine or Sailor's name)
26th MEU DET A
UNIT 74070
FPO AE 09511-4070

For those with Marines and Sailors aboard USS Austin, write:
(Your Marine or Sailor's name)
26th MEU DET B
UNIT 74071
FPO AE 09511-4071

For those with Marines and Sailors aboard USS Ashland, write:
(Your Marine or Sailor's name)
26th MEU DET C
UNIT 74072
FPO AE 09511-4072

If you would simply like to know what's going on with the 26th MEU(SOC), please visit our website at www.26meu.com.