U.S. NAVY 6TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been busy aboard the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group the first weeks of November conducting “wash down” operations in preparation for their upcoming scheduled return stateside.
Although maintaining the technical and tactical proficiency synonymous with a MEU, the Marines have recently been engaged with rags, scrub brushes, and pressure washers as well as small arms weapons. Before returning to their home bases in North Carolina and Virginia, the 24th MEU and Iwo Jima ARG must pass an intense inspection by customs agents and agricultural inspectors to ensure any foreign dirt and debris does not enter U.S. soil.
While the USS Iwo Jima and USS Gunston Hall took advantage of port facilities in Aqaba, Jordan several weeks ago to clean their ground-based gear, Marines and Sailors have been busy scrubbing aircraft aboard the Iwo Jima’s flight deck while the ship continues underway operations. But cleaning Marine aircraft, including AV-8B Harriers and MV-22B Ospreys is a lot more involved than one might think; Marines spend dozens of hours on each airplane and helicopter, pulling panels apart and disassembling the most minute pieces of machinery to ensure inspection-ready cleanliness.
The USS New York was also scheduled to take advantage of wash racks and more comfortable conditions ashore, but when plans changed and the ship had to remain afloat, the MEU Marines adapted. The New York-based Marines washed and scrubbed their vehicles, gear and containers in the cramped quarters of the ship’s well deck, a large portion inside the ship dedicated for storage of Marine vehicles. Although not a simple one, the Marines understood the task at hand and benefitted from a supporting cast of ship assets and personnel, using several freshwater hoses maintained by the crew of the New York’s deck department.
The Marines of the 24th MEU are always prepared to accomplish any mission and this was no exception, but the realization that wash down operations mean the end of the deployment is near didn’t hurt either.