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Marines and sailors conquer open water during MPFEX

28 Aug 2014 | Cpl. Austin Long 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

The open ocean can prove a monstrous force submerging entire ships, whipping away entire fleets, and altering a military's plan for re-supply or movement to an objective. The brave men and women of Combat Logistics Regiment 25 and Navy Beach Group Two didn’t allow this to deter them from completing their mission off the coast of Jacksonville Beach, Fla. and in the tight spaces and strong current of the St. Johns River.

Marines and sailors completed the month-long Maritime Prepositioning Force Exercise-14 during the month of August at Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island in Jacksonville, Fla.

The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Expeditionary Strike Group Two led the exercise, which feeds into BOLD ALLIGATOR 2014, a large-scale amphibious exercise scheduled for later this year that will serve as a capstone event for the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Force 21 concept. Marines have not performed this crisis response exercise in 15 years, and the Navy has not performed this type of training in 12 years, said Cmdr. Michael O’Driscoll, the off-load control officer with Assault Craft Unit Two, Naval Beach Group Two.

“This level of exercise is the first of its kind in years,” said O’Driscoll. “Because we don’t get to do this type of training that often, we brought additional personnel out here so they can gain the experience and get hands-on training under these circumstances. I think it’s working very well and better than what we expected.”

The U.S. Naval Ship Seay aided both sailors and Marines with this training, by providing them with the means to hold more than 300 pieces of equipment on the open water. It also provided the needed cranes to move the items from the ship to the Integrated Navy Lighterage System (lighterage craft) used to transport the cargo from ship to shore.

A lighterage craft is a small barge to transport items on the waterways. Its small size and versatile movability makes it a preferred choice for transporting critical equipment from a ship in the open ocean to troops on shore.

For about a week, sailors, Amphibious Construction Battalion Two, transported equipment from the USNS Seay to MCSF Blount Island on the INLS. The goal was to off-load 20 percent of this equipment by means of this method.

After the off-shore, off-loading was completed, Marines with CLR-25, drove the remainder of the gear off the ship to the shore from the USNS Seay, while it was anchored in port at MCSF Blount Island.

The 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, a reserve unit stationed in Tampa, Fla., also participated in the training by conducting a "splash," or entered the water with an amphibious assault vehicle in the open water, of eight amphibious assault vehicles. The training allowed Marines to rehearse their skills at navigating the open waters to safely transport people and gear from ship-to-shore; a vital part of their profession. The entry method is called a splash because of the splash a vehicle makes when it enters the water at high speeds.

“For 2nd MEB, MPFEX 14 was a hugely successful exercise in terms of command and control of a maritime prepositioning force offloads through the operation of the Arrival and Assembly Operations Group,” said Major Larry Warfield, the executive officer of CLR-25. “For the Navy and Marine Corps team, MPFEX 14 was an awesome opportunity to come together and train. We were able to show case our interoperability by preparing, offloading and putting over 2300 pieces of equipment and containers. Additionally, this exercise once again demonstrated the operation relevance and flexibility by showcasing MCSF-BIC and NAS Mayport.”