News: Joint Ops: Marines and sailors collaborate to accomplish mission
Story by Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin
MARINE CORPS SUPPORT FACILITY BLOUNT ISLAND, Fla. – Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force participated in a Marine Prepositioning Force Exercise here, May 22-30. The exercise was used to give service members the chance to learn first-hand all the procedures involved in unloading and readying a ship full of equipment to re-supply ground forces.
“Many Marines don’t even know MPF ships exist, or how operations are conducted between the Marine Corps and the Navy,” said Maj. Daniel Bartos, the Arrival and Assembly Operations Group officer-in-charge. “The opportunity to work with MPF assets doesn’t come along often … this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”
During an MPF operation the AAOG acts as the nucleus, comparable to a military command operations center, monitoring the other sections, and making sure everything runs smoothly.
Prepositioning ships typically stay afloat for three years in various regions so they can resupply ground forces if necessary. At the end of three years the ship must return to Blount Island to be unloaded and undergo mandatory maintenance equipment upgrades.
“By conducting [MPF] exercises when a ship is already scheduled to come to port, we’re able to save money while training,” said Phil Coulson, the II MEF Logistics Management Specialist.
Although many MPF operations have been conducted here, the service members involved with this exercise were part of something groundbreaking.
“This is the first in-stream off-load of an MPF ship that has ever been done here,” said Staff Sgt. David Childress, the G-4 operations chief with II MEF.
When a ship comes to Blount Island it usually docks pier side and is then off-loaded. For this exercise the United States Naval Ship Dahl anchored 10 miles off the coast and used cranes to load equipment and vehicles onto interlocking lighterage boats. The boats then drove up to the beach, lowered a ramp, and were unloaded.
This exercise was also the first time in five years that II MEF has conducted an MPF operation that wasn’t in support of another unit. MPF operations are typically conducted by Marine Expeditionary Brigades.
“This isn’t the typical staff that would be conducting a prepositioning off-load, and yet they’re doing a great job,” said Coulson.
Conducting an exercise that is the first of its kind does present many challenges.
“We were at the mercy of the sea,” said Bartos. “If the waves were too rough we couldn’t load equipment from the Dahl to the lighterage.”
Weather conditions, inexperienced crew and differences in command between the Navy and Marine Corps were just a few of the challenges that the II MEF service members faced, but they still accomplished the mission.
“Overall the exercise was a success,” said Bartos. “We were able to accomplish our original objectives, and every Marine and sailor is walking away having learned something about MPF operations, and how the Marine Corps employs MPF assets.”