Story by 2LT James Sartain on 07/29/2019CAMP LEJEUNE, NC - On July 19, 2019, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) successfully completed Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) MEU Integration Training (PMINT) with the U.S. Navy Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The training evolution was executed in order to familiarize the ARG/MEU Marines and Sailors to life aboard U.S. Navy amphibious ships and prepare them for an overseas deployment later this year.
The training began with the 26th MEU embarking onto the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21), and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). The embarkation occurred in Norfolk, Virginia, Mayport, Florida, and Morehead City, North Carolina. From there, over 1,100 Marines and Sailors assigned to the 26th MEU integrated with their PHIBRON 8 counterparts for the first time as an ARG/MEU while at sea.
Embarking onto multiple ships is not an easy task. It requires a large amount of planning in advance. One of the most complex groups to move is the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 2/8). For many Marines and Sailors, it is their first time working together while also bringing equipment and personnel onto the ships. Whether it's their first time or tenth time, Marines and Sailors always discover new training opportunities and ways to be more efficient as an overall blue-green team.
"From onload to offload there is a lot of great training and learning that is occurring," said Lt. Col. Thomas Siverts, the BLT 2/8 commanding officer. "We are learning how to load our ships, live on ship, train on ship, and prepare for and execute missions from ship. It's impressive to see the teamwork that has occurred throughout PMINT. We've established a solid foundation that we will build upon throughout the remaining training cycle and deployment."
One BLT 2/8 asset was the Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT). They embarked via Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC). This group consists of multiple vehicles and over 30 Marines. All were transported from shore-to-ship by the LCAC Navy Craft Masters.
"It was a great experience for many Marines integrating with the Sailors onboard," said 2nd Lt. Connor Mahoney, BLT 2/8 CAAT platoon commander. "The shore-to-ship movement via the LCAC was executed smoothly thanks to our Navy partners. Once aboard, we were able to validate armory spaces, berthing allotments, and workspaces for Marines and staff."
Once all personnel and equipment were fully embarked on ship, Marines and Sailors then conducted ship-to-shore movements with Assault Amphibious Vehicles, LCACs, and aviation assets assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) 365 (reinforced). The embarked Marines and Sailors also practiced ship-specific exercises such as man overboard drills.
"Successfully embarking and getting accustomed to life aboard naval vessels can be challenging for Marines and Sailors who have never deployed on a ship before," said Col. Trevor Hall, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. "PMINT allows us to integrate into one team so we can efficiently, and safely, execute missions across the full range of military operations from the sea."
PMINT not only puts shore-to-ship and ship-to-shore movements to the test, but it is also the first time for many Marines and Sailors to communicate as one team.
"Over the course of PMINT, working with the crew of the USS New York has been an enjoyable experience," said 1st Lt. James Foley, BLT 2/8 communications officer. "They have a first-class group of Sailors that have helped us tremendously in setting up connectivity and providing command and control throughout the ship. It's extremely impressive how much of a focus that they have on a team mindset, working together, and supporting the Marines on ship."
MEUs operate continuously across the globe and provide the president and the unified combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, flexible and responsive sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force. The ability to move Marines, Sailors, and equipment from ship to shore is a key function that allows the ARG/MEU team to rapidly respond to a variety of situations ranging from full-scale combat operations to foreign humanitarian assistance.
"We are a stronger, more capable force when we integrate as a blue-green team," Hall said. "It's about teamwork and maximizing the tremendous capabilities of our forces so we provide commanders around the globe with a scalable, ready, and resilient force."