Blue-green cross-training builds team skills on USS Oak Hill

18 Jan 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

The relationship between a Marine Expeditionary Unit and a Naval Strike Group is one of mutual support, with each  employing unique skill sets to successfully accomplish shared objectives.

Aboard USS Oak Hill, Marines from Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors of the of the ship's Visit Board Search Seizure (VBSS) team have been exchanging training in their unique skills, enhancing blue-green team strengths.

The VBSS team is the product of a Navy policy calling for nearly all non-carrier ships to stand-up a force capable of boarding and inspecting suspicious vessels for contraband and important information, a duty once fulfilled by special forces units that are now often otherwise engaged in the Global War on Terrorism, said Ensign J.P. O'Donoghue, USS Oak Hill engineering and VBSS officer.

The groups are sharpening their combat skills through weapons handling training, Enhanced Marksmanship Program (EMP) dry-runs, and close quarter battle drills, during the four-hour training sessions.

The weapons training is taught by the Marines, while the VBSS team is teaching the Leathernecks the ins and outs of securing objectives in the confined space aboard ships.

The joint training environment is paying dividends to both groups by introducing each to new tactics while reinforcing existing skills at the same time, said 1st Lt. Rollin A. Steele, LAR Plt. commander and native of Virginia Beach, Va.

"The training is expanding our learning base by introducing us to something new," he said of the ship-clearing techniques.  "Our training can easily get repetitive, so it's nice to have the opportunity to work with a different group and learn some new things."

The Marines have expertise in thoroughly securing smaller buildings, while the VBSS team's mission will typically force them to move more quickly through an environment made of corridors and ladder wells lined with doors and side passages, he explained.

The experience of the Marine instructors is a definite plus for the VBSS team's training, said O'Donoghue.

"I think its one of the best things that could have happened to us," he said of his team linking up with the Marines.

The Marines in LAR Plt. have nearly all been to the battlefields of Iraq, said Sgt. William J. Miller IV, a scout squad leader with the platoon and a native of Jonesboro, Ga.

That urban combat deployment experience has added a level of authority to the training that would have been hard to replicate without the Marines, said O'Donoghue.

The training, which began Jan. 15, has already begun to show its worth in the VBSS team's improvement in their weapons handling, said Miller who is acting as lead instructor in the Sailors' instruction.

Seeing the cooperation between the services has been great as the training unfolds, said Steele.

"I think it's all gone very smoothly," he said.  "I thought there might be some rifts, but all of my Marines have had really open minds about what the Sailors have had to teach us."

"Everyone out here has been very appreciative of this opportunity," he finished.

Having the chance to see the Marines and Sailors work together has been great for the Navy side of things as well, said O'Donoghue.

"You always hear about the blue-green team," he said.  "I think it's great to finally see it in action."

With the 26th MEU and the ships of the Bataan Strike Group, of which Oak Hill is a part, is currently deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The 26th MEU is composed of its Command Element; BLT 2/2; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.