CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Despite severe weather that halted much of the training during the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's recent Amphibious Specialty Training, one group pushed through the adversity to accomplish their mission.
The assault amphibian vehicle platoon slated to deploy with the 22nd MEU later this year braved the treacherous North Carolina surf to practice 'splashing' to and from Onslow Beach and the amphibious assault ship AUSTIN.
Because the sea state was prohibitive to most landing craft, the AAVs unique ability to plow through the water on its own power enabled the platoon's Marines to carry out their training.
Corporal Kyle Felix, of Chalmette, La., is an AAV crew chief, and is understandably proud of his vehicle.
"The AAV sets us apart from the other services in a major way," said Felix, who deployed with the 22nd MEU to Afghanistan in 2004. "We're the only one who has the AAV. It's a good time, and this is probably the best job in the world."
The amphibious element of the AAV also gives his job a big challenge - getting from shore to ship and back. Having boarded ships in the past, Felix knows first-hand the need for the AST, or Type Commanders Amphibious Training as it was once known.
"The first time you do it, it's an experience," said Felix. "You're always paying attention to the ground guides up top [of the ship's well deck]."
Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Vogel, a section leader for the AAV platoon, also understands the challenge of entering a ship's well deck from sea. He's seen how newer crewmembers react to driving onto the ship's well deck for the first time.
"It gets a little nerve-wracking," said Vogel. "Sometimes they get overwhelmed with the size of the ship, so hopefully they'll come out with a lot more experience."
Experience just doesn't happen on ship, either. While waiting for the signal to 'splash in,' crews are busy checking the vehicle's seals, engines, rotors, and overall seaworthiness. The checks are more than just busy work -- AAVs can weigh as much as 27 tons, and may have to travel over a mile to reach the ship.
AST was the first of many opportunities for the AAV platoon members to practice their trade. During upcoming exercises, and a week-long course designed to integrate the platoon with the infantry company they will carry into battle, the AAV platoon will spend many hours in the North Carolina coastal waters.
In May, the 22nd MEU expects to obtain operational control of the units with which it will deploy later this year, which, in addition to the MEU Command Element, includes Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.
For more information on the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.