MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Nearly 20 landing support Marines from the 2nd Beach and Terminal Operations Company (Reinforced), more commonly referred to as the Savannah Marines, deployed to Onslow Beach Feb. 5 in support of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s participation in an operational evaluation of the USS San Antonio.
The San Antonio is a brand-new vessel with state-of-the-art facilities for supporting amphibious operations. It boasts many improvements over older versions of the amphibious transport dock, including an improved tactical lift, amphibious support and vehicle stowage capabilities as well as generally improved living conditions for the crew and embarked Marines. These improvements will enhance the MEU's ability to quickly and efficiently project power ashore.
“The primary mission for our Marines is to augment (Combat Logistics Battalion - 26) in support of the 26th MEU operational evaluation of the USS San Antonio,” said Maj. John Sattely, the Savannah Marine’s inspector instructor.
During their 20-day stint here, the landing support Marines, also known as Red Patches will assist in the offload and backload of all equipment that lands ashore via Landing Craft Air Cushioned and Landing Craft Utility as well as direct various waves of assault forces once they land on the beach.
“Once the crafts are ‘feet dry,’ (the Marines) have to track the amount of cargo and vehicles that come off,” Sattely said. “Any issues stemming from this process, i.e. maintenance of equipment, supply support, et cetera, then they will communicate back to the ship and coordinate the support.”
The Savannah Marines' ultimate goal is to ensure the MEU has a successful exercise as well as gain some real world amphibious operational experience, Sattely said.
“The MEU will one day be deploying with this ship and working through some of the ‘friction points’ of amphibious operations and specifically, ship-to-shore operations,” Sattely explained. “While my Marines will be there to support and augment as well as learn, I hope that our assistance will be there to also reduce the amount of friction and provide the MEU with more options for logistic solutions.”
When working and training with the Marine Corps Reserves, it’s all about finding training opportunities, Sattely said. The prospect of so many valuable lessons led all the Marines who came from Savannah to volunteer for the task.
“I volunteered to come out here because it was an excellent training opportunity,” said Lance Cpl. Candice Carroll, a landing support specialist for the Savannah Marines. “I think this operation is vital basic training because we get a lot of different types of training, but we don’t get many opportunities to come out on the beach (where we conduct most of our missions.)”
The reservists are eager to train and deploy, and jumped at the chance to participate here, Sattely said.
“To support an active duty Marine Corps unit as well as to work with the U.S. Navy's newest premier amphibious ship is a unique training opportunity for this unit,” said Sgt. Brandon Dillard, the Savannah Marine’s training chief. His unit greatly benefited from this opportunity to train, Dillard said.
Even though half of the visiting Savannah Marines are Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, and possess a wealth of experience running a variety of platforms, none have any experience in conducting beach operations in support of amphibious operations.
“We are here to learn and gain some great experience from CLB-26 as well as, hopefully, lay a seed in future considerations for augmented support for the other MEUs down the road,” Sattely said.
While commenting on some of the newest creature comforts the San Antonio boasts, Dillard said that, so far the feedback is very positive. “I have not met an upset Marine who has come off this ship yet.”