USS CARTER HALL, At sea --
Each Marine’s career is different. From boot camp on, the paths they take are unique to them. Duty stations, units, deployments – these all vary for each Marine, some east coast, some west coast, some bound for the battalions, some for the Marine Expeditionary Units, and some for the wings. All of them bound for one of the thousands of overlapping units that comprise the Marine Corps like so many links in a chain, making the whole.
Lance Cpl. Brandon Carteaux, from Dallas, Georgia, is one of those links. An amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) crewman, he is currently assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/2, one of the reinforcements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Part of AAV Platoon, he’s one of the nearly sixty Marines responsible for operating the amphibious personnel carriers that represent the MEU’s mechanized sea-to-shore striking capability, embarked aboard the USS Carter Hall.
This isn’t the first time he’s been embarked aboard one of the Navy’s amphibious ships though. Not the first time’s he been sent to sea at the Marine Corps’ behest, to see foreign places training allied militaries in the arts the Marine Corps of the 21st century excels.
The latest young man to join up in a family with a long history of military enlistment, Carteaux went to boot camp in July of 2010. “I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” said Carteaux.
After graduating from basic training, Carteaux soon headed to the Amphibious Assault Course, the class all AAV crewmen go through, in Camp Pendleton on the West Coast.
The class itself, with the Marine Corps’ inordinate fondness for things in threes, has three phases. The first in learning to operate the AAV on land – driving and maneuvering, as well as the maintenance of the various components and engine parts of the vehicle. The second phase is operating the vehicle in the water, using the water jets to move the AAV as the driver pleases, and the leaning the mechanics of what it takes to make it happen. The third, and final, phase is operating the AAV’s formidable weapons system, learning the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, the 40mm MK-19 grenade launcher, the inside, the outside, taking it apart and putting it back together a thousand times – knowing everything and anything about the weapons.
After graduating, Carteaux headed back east to Camp Lejeune, N.C. “I picked Camp Lejeune. It was closest to home – to Georgia,” said Carteaux, talking about when the Marines make their selections for where they hope to be stationed. Assigned to 1st Platoon, Company A, 2nd AAV Battalion, Carteaux arrived during workups for the combined arms exercise that takes place out west, where Marines do high-intensity desert training.
Right after returning from that, he ended up doing one of the little things that makes every Marine’s career unique. He deployed with a squadron, embarking as provisional infantry aboard the USS Oak Hill, sister ship to the USS Carter Hall, as part of Southern Partnership Station 12, a yearly exercise training with allied nations in South America in amphibious, jungle, and urban warfare. Their first stop was Panama.
Heading to Colombia from there, they trained with Colombian special naval warfare forces in jungle warfare. “We learned how to operate in the jungle, and we taught them [Colombian special forces] military operations in urban terrain,” said Carteaux. “I’ve always been good at it. So I helped teach it there.”
From there, they went to the Honduras, arriving in the wettest part of the year. “We just worked with their naval special forces – their Marines. It was mostly us teaching them things,” said Carteaux. “We were there during the rainy season, so it was just always raining, always mucky. You’d step out of your tent and get filthy, and step back in and get filthier.”
Returning from SPS 12, Carteaux volunteered for another deployment, and was assigned to his current post – 2nd Platoon, Company D, 2nd AAV Battalion, which is currently the AAV platoon for the 26th MEU, now five months into its current deployment. “It’s kind of fun. It’s something new,” said Carteaux. He’s now experienced the deserts of Oman and Jordan, locations his platoon has trained during exercises so far in the deployment.
“I love going new places – trying somebody else’s culture,” said Carteaux.
The future will hold much of the same, with Carteaux reenlisting for another four years. “I love being a Marine. It’s something I actually enjoy,” said Carteaux. “I get to shoot guns and blow things up. I get paid to go to other countries. I get paid to defend my country. It’s what I do. “