News: Amphibious by nature, expeditionary through training
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The tip of the spear, America’s expeditionary force in readiness, the first to fight; Marines go by all these names.
Marines and sailors maintain this reputation through exercises like Pacific Horizon 11, a crisis response and maritime prepositioning force exercise in the Pacific Ocean off the Camp Pendleton coast March 1 - March 14.
Sixteen maritime prepositioning ships, which are deployed in the Western Pacific, Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, are configured to carry nearly everything the Marine Corps would need to initiate a wide range of military operations. These ships can conduct offload and at-sea transfer of personnel and equipment from the ships to aircraft or amphibious vehicles capable of ship-to-shore movement.
During a recent teleconference with reporters, Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force and commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Brigade said “Sailors and Marines link up with these assets at sea to respond with speed and effectiveness in supporting our nation’s strategic interests.”
One of the MPS’s, the USNS Sgt. William R. Button, a container and roll-on/roll-off ship, along with the USS Dubuque (LPD 8), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, were involved in this year’s exercise. The exercise simulated ship-to-shore delivery to conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and security operations in the fictional country of Diego, which experienced a Category 5 hurricane.
Pacific Horizon is supposed to hone Marines and sailors’ expeditionary capabilities, said Capt. Drew W. Harris, liaison officer for 7th Marines and the commander of troops on the USS Dubuque (LPD 8).
Day two of the exercise included Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion and Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, performing an amphibious landing on Camp Pendleton’s Red Beach. Both units are part of 1st Marine Division, I MEF. The Marines splashed off the USS Dubuque in amphibious assault vehicles and landed ashore to establish security on the beach.
“Our purpose traditionally has been that force in readiness that takes a hostile beachfront, lands our forces and pushes logistics and all those elements ashore to projectile forward,” said Harris, from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
Even though the beachfront was not hostile in the exercise, the Marines secured it and pushed forward to a simulated village where they provided humanitarian assistance to the local population.
The platoon’s objective was to set up security for a town and interact with the population to find out what they need, said Cpl. Milan N. Franklin, a squad leader with 3/7.
Franklin, 23, from Steilacoom, Wash. said ship-to-shore movement is not that common for the Marines of Kilo Company. This is the first time the majority of the company disembarked via AAV’s.
“This is good for the Marines because when they become leaders and senior non-commisioned officers they can look back at this exercise and remember their experience and pass it on to their Marines,” Franklin said.
“Success always depends on that corporal and lance corporal,” Harris said. “We’re making sure that they understand the big picture and know what they need to get done.”
Spiese describes maritime prepositioning as a genuinely unique and unmatched capability envisioned decades ago.
“It is more than providing a role for the Marine Corps; it is providing options and capabilities for America," he said.