USS WASP, New Orleans --
As Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit steam south to New Orleans aboard the USS Wasp, many are adjusting to an aspect of the Marine Corps many know little about; life embarked on ship. Aboard ship, the day-to-day routine that many Marines are used to becomes something new and totally different from anywhere else, be it in garrison or deployed abroad.
The narrow corridors and steep ladders that define the interior of a ship are far from the biggest changes for many. For example, this is the furthest a number of the Marines have ever been out to sea. “This is the first time I’ve been out on a real ship. It’s kind of a surreal experience. When you’re standing on the pier, it’s like, how does something this big float,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Sanders, a rifleman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The ship is nearly three football fields long at 844 feet and approximately 40,000 tons unloaded.
Surrounded by miles and miles of empty oceans, some Marines are surprised by the calm. “It’s really peaceful out here. The water’s nice,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Leishman, an ammo man with Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “It’s really pretty. I’ve never been out so far before,” said Lance Cpl. Dylan Swanzy, gunner with Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Some are finding it harder to adjust, though. Lance Cpl. Trisha Hunter, intelligence analyst with the 26th MEU, misses using her cell phone and having easy access to Internet service.
Some are just adjusting to the day-to-day existence of the ship, with the ceaselessly moving decks and tight quarters in berthing or sleeping area. “I thought it’d be a lot more cramped. It could use a little more head room, but I’ve slept in worse,” said Leishman. “I’m used to having a three man room, not three bunk beds,” said Sanders.
For a few Marines, the back and forth movement of the ship can be more than a little nauseating. “I got sick on the third day, but I’ve been good since,” said Cpl. Mark Gomez, maintenance management chief for the 26th MEU. “I don’t like the way the ship wobbles back and forth,” said Hunter. “You have to get used to the rocking, so walking is kind of weird,” said Sanders.
However, for most, it’s a new experience, and a new facet to the Marine Corps that many didn’t expect to see. “It’s a whole new world,” said Lance Cpl. David Anzualda, data network technician for 26th MEU. For Staff Sgt. Vincento Perez, radio chief for the 26th MEU, this will be the fourth time aboard ship with a Marine expeditionary unit. “This is a tradition. From a Marine Corps perspective, I take pride in being aboard a ship.”
The 26th MEU will pull into port aboard the USS Wasp April 17. The Commemoration of the War of 1812 ceremonies will take place in New Orleans from April 17 through April 23. The 26th MEU will then move on to Port Everglades, Fla., where it will stay from April 25 to April 30.