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From the Sands of Iwo Jima to Life on the Seven Seas

13 Dec 2011 | Seaman Apprentice Jonathan L. Correa 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Experiencing things for the first time can be a scary or exciting moment in the lives of most people. Whether it is your first day of school, starting a new job, driving a car or for military members going on deployment; these firsts can at times be hectic.

As with most life-changing events, people learn how to adapt and hone the skills needed to take-on the next challenge.

This is especially true for Marines who are experiencing their first time at sea assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The 24th MEU is currently underway with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), participating in composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). Once every several months, a MEU joins with their sea-going brethren to complete all the required, integration-based training needed prior to the ship actually deploying into hostile areas around the world.

But life on board a ship was not something the average Marine recruit envisioned when they raised their hand and affirmed to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

“My first thought about living on a ship was; it was going to be cramped,” said Cpl. Terry A. Thayer, a Marine assigned to the 24th MEU. “When I first got on the ship, I wondered why there were so many short hallways and why do I have to step over things to get from point A to point B,” he added.

After being on board for a couple weeks, now the Cherry Point, N.C.-based Marine said he is starting to get used to life on a ship, understanding why passageways are configured a certain way and even starting to recognize some of the things being broadcasted over the ship’s intercom system.

“The berthing wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and the galley was a lot better than I imagined,” said Thayer. At the end of the day, no matter where he is, Thayer added, his job doesn’t change as a Marine and the mission still goes on.

This diverse approach to completing the mission is also a new experience for Lance Cpl. Tommy Bahr, a Marine assigned to the 24th MEU.

“I had no expectations,” said Bahr. “I heard stories about living on a ship. But honestly, I like it. It is a better environment than Afghanistan for sure, and the mission is a lot more diverse.”

Even though Bahr is making the best out of a tight situation, he still is eager to arrive on shore and complete the mission at hand.

“I just can’t wait to start training and get ‘boots on the ground.’” He also stated you have to always stay positive in life and look at things in a positive way.

“It is about the attitude you have toward and anything in your life,” Bahr said. “I think about it positively, not negatively. You have to find things to do to keep you busy. Then time will fly by.”

Whether you are a Marine deploying to a war zone or Sailor reporting from boot camp, a first-time on a ship can be a culture shock considering all the things the average person takes for granted.

Imagine going from having your own apartment, to now sharing an apartment-size living space with about 100 other people. Being able to enjoy an intimate meal at your dinner table, to standing in a line which resembles that of the most popular ride at an amusement park, only to sit elbow-to-elbow in a room one-third the size of the average high school cafeteria.

Considering all that, shipboard living may not be for everybody, but for the Marines assigned to the 24th MEU, the oath to fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea is what they live by. Living at sea is just another mission, which they are fully equipped, trained and prepared to overcome.