USS NEW YORK, AT SEA
USS NEW YORK, at sea — The Marine Corps’ rich history of providing security for naval ships dates back to its inception in 1775. In the 239 years since, the Marine Corps has expanded into a force that excels at missions in the air and on land while remaining faithful to its amphibious, sea-borne capabilities. Given current military technology, U.S. Navy vessels are fully capable of defending themselves from threats, but both the Marine Corps and Navy strive for better ways to improve their fighting strength.
On April 28, 2015, Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stepped back into a more direct naval defensive role when they augmented security for the mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3) during a transit through the Strait of Bab al Mandeb.
“We put Marines over on the minesweeper initially for what we call a ‘proof of concept,’” said Maj. Tyler Holland, the 24th MEU assistant operations officer. “The smaller ship has some self-defense capabilities, but by putting Marines over there it gives them an additional capability and helps them augment their force protection.”
Considering regional issues, the integration of Marines in the Navy’s defense posture comes at a critical time as the Navy is being tasked with supporting a variety of maritime missions. Navy Lt. Paul Valcke, the Sentry’s operations officer, said the Sentry is currently part of a multi-national mine countermeasures force that is conducting mine warfare operations.
The Marines and Sailors came together to establish a more robust small caliber action team, or SCAT, than the ship is accustomed. The Strait of Bab al Mandeb is a high traffic area, used by military vessels, but also by merchant shipping companies to move a high volume of the world’s goods and oil. Because of this traffic, the demand for quality security is premium and a fluid working relationship between those providing the security is paramount to successfully executing the mission.
Valcke said it was his understanding that this was the first time the Sentry had Marines aboard and the first time any mine countermeasures ship’s security had been augmented by Marines. But the sister services came together and performed well.
“The [Navy and Marine] integration on the Sentry was seamless and provided an unexpected opportunity to stretch the bounds of force integration,” said Lt. Cmdr Janice Pollard, commanding officer of the USS Sentry.
The 24th MEU Marines, who are embarked on the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and deployed to maintain security throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet, are familiar with SCAT operations on the much larger ship — the New York can carry around 1,500 personnel. The Sentry carries less than 100 people, and there were challenges and benefits associated with applying tactics on a smaller scale.
“The Sentry is much smaller, so everything that needed to get done went a lot quicker,” said Sgt. Peter Gentry III, an anti-tank missileman with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “There was no lag time in word being passed, and crosstalk between us was extremely smooth.”
With a solid working relationship in place, the Marines and Sailors were able to exchange information on how each side handles security posture. The Marines expanded the ship’s defensive capabilities by bringing additional weapons systems.
“[The Marines brought weapons] that augmented the Sentry’s defenses by extending engagement zones and enabling the Sentry to ‘punch above her weight,’” said Navy Lt. Lawrence Heyworth IV, the executive officer of the Sentry.
Heyworth said the anti-tank Javelin specifically allowed the ship to have a more effective long-range offensive capability.
At the completion of the transit, both Marines and Sailors walked away impressed by the ease at which they were able to work together and by the level of care and expertise each had in conducting security while making the transit.
“The Marines seemed especially impressed with the level of ownership and dedication to combat readiness demonstrated by the minemen onboard Sentry,” said Pollard. “They seemed caught off-guard when our [crew-served weapons] teams wanted to discuss engagement tactics, such as “’crossing streams.’”
Overall, the mission was a success and the Sentry transited through the strait without incident. The Marines returned to the New York and the amphibious Navy they are used to with new experiences and a newfound appreciation for one of the Navy’s smaller ships — a side of the Navy Marines do not often see.
“The Sentry’s Sailors were extremely professional,” said Gentry. “Their tactical mindset was very well established and you could tell they took the defense of the ship very seriously. They were very accommodating and assisted a lot. They gave us everything we needed.”
The 24th MEU continues on its deployment throughout the 5th Fleet area of operations. They will be replaced later this year by the 15th MEU and the ships of the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
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This work, Marines 'beef up' security on Navy minesweeper, by Cpl Todd Michalek, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.