ABOARD USS WASP (Off the coast of Sardinia, Italy) -- Marines, Sailors, equipment, vehicles and supplies of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) were officially offloaded May 22, initiating Phase I of NATO's Exercise Dynamic Mix 2000, and the MEU's Landing Support Platoon was there to ensure a smooth start.
According to LCpl. Darrick Barrera, Landing Support Specialist (LSS), MSSG-24, the actual offload of equipment and vehicles requires the use of two separate platoons.
"A platoon from the [USS] Trenton handles the [landing craft utility] offload and our platoon from the [USS] Wasp handles the [load-carrying air cushioned] offload."
Each platoon consists of about 12 personnel including a corpsman, communication specialists and mechanics.
Sgt. Anthony Richmond, LSS, MSSG-24, from Cincinnati, Ohio, explains how both beach landings -LCAC and LCU - accomplish the same thing - safe and efficient transport of equipment and vehicles, and the crew is crucial in making that happen.
"When the LCU, or LCAC, comes in, the Beach masters handle the actual offload and we take over once the vehicles hit the sand. They have to be directed immediately to the staging area and staged according to the unit responsible for the vehicle."
The landing support specialists ensure all the vehicles and equipment of each unit are staged together until the appropriate company, or platoon, takes possession.
Long Branch, N. J. native, Sgt. Eugene Hendershot, LSS, says that the staging of the vehicles and equipment is important to their mission.
"We have to set up our Beach Site Area (BSA) so things are easily identifiable. [Meals-Ready-To-Eat] get staged in one place, ammunition gets staged in another and then the vehicles and equipment have a separate staging area too."
Once the offload is complete and the exercise is underway, the landing support specialists' job is still not done. According to Hendershot, they still handle the accountability of all vehicles and equipment that comes on and off the beach.
"We track all vehicles coming and going and we're even on standby to provide a Helicopter Support Team (HST) if the necessity arises," said Hendershot.
With Dynamic Mix 2000 being the largest NATO exercise this year, MEU personnel get the opportunity to work in a multi-national environment and put to use the skills they've practiced for several months.
"This is what we train for and it feels like it's going to be a good [operation]," said Hendershot. "Plus we get to see the other half of our platoon [from the Trenton]."
Follow the 24th MEU (SOC) deployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.