ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- A Marine Expeditionary Unit is made up of more than 2,200 trained warriors who, as a group, are capable of executing a number of highly specialized missions.
When deployed, 22nd MEU Marines embark aboard the ships of an Expeditionary Strike Group. Most aboard the Strike Group refer to this arrangement as the "blue-green" team, as Marines and sailors work closely to accomplish any mission at hand.
Because it is a true team effort between the blue and green, the Marines pitch in to support ship operations while living and working on the naval vessels.
A select group Leathernecks, known as "ship's augments," provides that support by working long hours at unfamiliar tasks that range from chaining down cargo in the lower decks of the ship, to serving food in the ship's mess halls, and even cutting hair.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Hill is one of the Marines who supports the ship's operations for the 22nd MEU.
Hill normally works for the MEU's Aviation Combat Element (ACE), Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (reinforced), helping ensure the mechanical safety of aircraft before they fly.
When the ACE goes aboard the USS Kearsarge, Hill still gets to work on the flight deck; however, his mission changes.
As a flight-deck combat cargo handler, Hill is responsible for the safety of the passengers getting on and off the aircraft.
It's a responsibility he takes seriously. He points out that if someone unfamiliar with the flight deck of a ship were to come onboard without a keen understanding of safety, "they could walk into a helicopter tail rotor."
A CUT ABOVE
Sgt. R. T. Chin may not be responsible for keeping Marines safe around the hazards of the flight deck, but many Marines would argue that his job is even more vital to their health and welfare.
Chin is normally a vehicle mechanic with the MEU's Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. But, once afloat, Chin trades his wrenches for a set of hair clippers.
Chin and a small crew of Marines work several hours a day in the ship's Troop Barber Shop keeping Marines' haircuts within regulations. This keeps the Marines looking sharp and ensures that freshly shorn Leathernecks will not have a heart-to-heart conversation about proper grooming standards with their sergeants.
Master Sgt. Harold Hargrove Jr. serves as the liaison between the ship's departments that need Marine augments and the MEU's work sections that provide the Marines.
Hargrove, the Headquarters Commandant for the MEU's Command Element, says the hardest part of his day is just making his rounds (inspections) throughout the ship.
"Everyone on the boat knows me," says Hargrove.
He explains that no matter where he goes on the ship, somebody will stop him in the passageway, requesting that he take care of some issue with the ship augments.
He compares the ship to a very busy anthill. And, he said jokingly, "I feel like I'm the one directing traffic."
Hargrove says that the personnel price the MEU pays is very important.
"How we deal with augments has a lot to do with our relationship with the ship," he said. "You get one chance to make a first impression."
GOT TO BE DONE
Hill, the flight-deck combat cargo handler, accepts that he has different responsibilities now. Though, he admits to returning to his maintenance section to help out when he isn't required to be on the flight deck.
"You can ask anybody," said Hill. "I'm sure they'd rather be doing their regular job, but this is something that's got to be done."
The 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit includes a Ground Combat Element - Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; an Aviation Combat Element - Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); a Logistics Combat Element - Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and the Command Element. The MEU is scheduled to deploy later this year. For more on the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's Website at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.