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Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment, attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, land on Onslow Beach aboard Camp Lejeune, NC November 3, 2009. This beach landing is a part of an amphibious assault training evolution the 24th MEU is doing during their composite unit training exercise in preparation for their upcoming deployment. (US Marine Corps photo by Sgt Andrew J. Carlson)

Photo by Sgt Andrew J Carlson

24th MEU water warriors once again

7 Nov 2009 | Cpl. Alex C. Guerra 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Tripoli, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Persian Gulf; each a proving ground, a fire in which the Corps’ penchant for amphibious warfare was galvanized.

The lessons learned in these historic conflicts are undeniably relevant today for the Marines and sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as they conducted a battalion-size amphibious assault as part of the Special Operations Training Group coordinated Composite Training Unit Exercise Nov. 5 - 7.

Completing this exercise helped the 24th MEU and Nassau Amphibious Readiness Group become more proficient in launching combat power from ship and take one step closer to deployment early next year.

The amphibious assault was the capstone training event for the MEU.  Marines demonstrated their force projection capabilities by landing an assault force followed by supporting elements on Onlsow Beach said Master Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Rice, operations chief, 24th MEU.

According to website, Navy and Marine Corps leaders recently announced the return to the amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary unit deployment construct as the routine amphibious force deployment package, according to U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs.

“This new approach will change the way amphibious forces are requested and packaged within joint global force management process,” said Vice Adm. Pete Daly, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in an U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs interview.  “The change will ensure the most efficient and effective employment of amphibious combat assets while supporting geographic combatant commanders.”

With any new approach that is taken on, the Marines get back to basics.

24th MEU has spent several months conditioning its forces to operate on and from USS Nassau, USS Mesa Verde, and USS Ashland in preparation for any contingency that may arise when underway.  Several hours of planning and preparation goes into transporting Marines and equipment from ship to shore to secure a shoreline.

“Any time you move from ship to shore it’s a specialized skill set and one that requires deliberate planning,” said Lt. Col. Robert P. Salasko, commanding officer, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU.

“If you are going to conduct sustained operations ashore, you’re going to have to do it the same way our forefathers did.  You’ll have to take a beachhead, hold that beachhead, and receive sustainment through Navy [vessels] that enables you to continue to operate,” added Salasko.

BLT 1/9 accomplished its first battalion-sized amphibious assault from ship while working hand-in-hand with their Navy counterparts.

“The Marine Corps and Navy are good partners for something like this,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Dyton P. Rendell, craftmaster, Assault Craft Unit 4, NARG.  “Our LCAC’s can reach up 70 percent of the world’s shoreline, so we play a big part in getting where the Marines need to be.  The Marines secured the beach for us; at that point we can come in and out and bring in as much equipment as we need.”

Between several LCAC’s and Landing Craft, Utility vessels, the 24th MEU launched amphibious assault vehicles, light armored vehicles, and humvees in order to gain an initial foothold on the beach.  Marines overcame several obstacles to execute this massive movement, but the training proved to be invaluable.

“I’ll arguably say that 20 percent of this battalion has never been on ship before, which has made it very challenging to the fact of Marines really having to touch base with the Marine Corps’ doctrine on amphibious warfare, understanding how to move from ship to shore, and utilizing the assets organic to the MEU as a whole,” said Gunnery Sgt. Richard Choquette, operations chief, Weapons Company, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.

As Marines stormed the beach and dug into their fighting positions, some can’t help but to recall historic events of the Marine Corps that have become a reality for them.

“As soon as they dropped the ramp, everyone just ran off and went straight for their sectors,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin Wett, rifleman, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, BLT 1/9.  “When everyone sat in, it was like what you see in the movies.  I think back to what other Marines went through in the past in Iwo Jima, Korea, and events like that.  Now we are getting a little taste of that.”

The assault allowed Marines to penetrate, exploit, expand the beach and continue inland to take the fight to the enemy. 

“Recent years we’ve focused more on the fight ashore because of [Iraq and Afghanistan], and we haven’t had the need to project power from the sea,” said Salsako.  “We are going back to this because this is the basics, this is our roots.  This is where the Marine Corps made a name for itself.”