PORT OF WILMINGTON, N.C. --
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed loading hundreds of vehicles, weapons and containers aboard the USNS Algol, February 1.
This marks the 24th MEU’s adjustment from deploying with the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group to supporting NATO operations in southern Afghanistan.
“(Just a week ago) we had all of our stuff on amphibious ships in Norfolk, Va., -- I mean broke down and stowed. We had to collect all that stuff, get it back into containers, bring it back down to (Camp) Lejeune, break open that stuff, get all the stuff we don’t need out, get all the stuff that we do need and pack it back up,” said Capt. Mark Windham, embarkation officer, 24th MEU. “So within a compressed timeline we had to figure out what we had, what we have on the deck, make it reflect in the paperwork and move it down to the Port of Wilmington,” Windham added.
He repeatedly stressed the distinction between port operations and the beachhead operations his Marines have trained for during the past year.
“In a week and a half I want you to do it this way. I know it took you a year to learn the other way, but I need you to do this stuff in a week and a half,” he said.
Assisting the 24th MEU dockside was the Army’s 841st Terminal Transportation Battalion -- a unit experienced in port operations along the east coast.
The soldiers created a stow plan for the more than 450 pieces of cargo, maximizing every inch of space, said Maj. Isabel Geiger, operations officer, 841st TTB.
“You won’t be able to walk between them,” Geiger promised of the cargo.
Accounting for each item as it is staged and then loaded aboard the ship falls on the shoulders of Combat Logistics Battalion 24’s landing support unit.
“Monday morning is when everything really started (for us). That’s when the convoys came in and then the cargo started coming in,” said Cpl. Mark Brady, landing support specialist, CLB-24.
However, simply getting the gear and aboard the ship is easy when compared to the process of tracking every item prior to its loading.
“We would be loading it on ship anyway, whether it is three ships (Nassau ESG) or just one big one. It hasn’t changed too much, just increase the scale. Last night we were out here until 12:45 a.m. putting tags on all these vehicles,” said Brady.
Windham admitted that his Marines had a tall task, but his confidence never wavered.
“It’s sleep depravation to the extreme. We rarely ask Marines to do something that is unreasonable to accomplish within the time frame we have,” he said. “It’s unreasonable for normal people, but my Marines that work for me down here are extraordinary. So it is not undoable for them.”