CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
Elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) came ashore in Kuwait this week after more than a month aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.
FROM SHIP TO SHORE
"It's a good breather,"said Cpl. Hannah Lisowsky, an administrative clerk with the Command Element. "It's nice to be able to walk around on solid ground."
The Marines and sailors are here to conduct sustainment training, including live fire and maneuver ranges, vehicle convoy training, combined arms training and advanced medical training.
"Most of our weapons training on ship is stationary and at very short distances,"said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Hall, the 22nd MEU(SOC) Sergeant Major. "We're unable to do the fire and maneuver portions, and we're limited to personal weapons on the ship."
Hall adds that the best part of Camp Buehring and the Udairi Range Complex is the ability to conduct live-fire and large-scale combined arms training, which combine air and ground assets moving together in support of each other.
"By coming ashore, we get to hone our conventional military skills, which we have not even been able to do since June,"said Hall.
He added that those traditional combat skills are"very perishable" and should be practiced as often as possible.
While some personnel coming ashore flew on helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) to the desert outpost, most of the Marines and sailors had a long, hot day of travel over sea and land.
The trip from the Kearsarge started with a 5 a.m. wake-up call in the berthing areas, signaling the troops to grab their weapons, gather their gear and move it two levels down to the ship's sweltering well deck.
When the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) docked at the back end of the ship, the Marines and sailors formed a"daisy-chain" to get the heavier bags stacked in the back of the LCU. This made it easier for several hundred service members to board the craft.
With the late-morning sun already blazing overhead, the LCU pulled free of the Kearsarge and started the hour-long trip to shore. Some troops took the opportunity to grab a quick nap, while others enjoyed the last view of their floating home that they would have for a while.
Once the LCU landed, the Marines and sailors reversed the gear loading process and staged their bags and weapons on the docks to wait for the transport trucks and buses that would haul them to the inner desert of Kuwait.
After a several-hour ride aboard mercifully air-conditioned buses, the troops had the first chance to look around their new temporary home.
NEW HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Other than the hot, dry breeze that feels like a blow dryer to the face, Camp Buehring provides a good deal of comfort as far as bases in the middle of the desert go.
There are three different-sized Post Exchanges to provide troops with everything from tactical field gear, to not-so-tactical compact discs and video games. And each of the PXs hosts a burgeoning souvenir kiosk market outside its doors where service members can get all kinds of baubles to send home to their loved ones.
There are also three different dining facilities (D-FACs) that not only provide the standard military staples like roast beef and spaghetti, but also offer fast-food-style selections such as chicken strips and cheese burgers, all served up by smiling third-country nationals.
For those who are able to work their way through the seeming mounds of available main courses, salads, sandwiches and the taco bar, the promise of fresh-scooped Baskin-Robbins ice cream awaits at the far end of the dining facility (D-FAC).
"I'm liking the chow,"said Lisowsky, a native of San Diego, Calif. She quipped that maintaining a good diet would require an extra helping of discipline with the current lineup of meals.
While the PXs and the D-FACs are nothing new for even a forward-deployed Army base, there are things here that do a little more to bring the comforts of home to Kuwait.
Burger King, Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken call to troops who may tire of the D-FAC fare with the aromas of deep fried chicken and flame broiled burgers. But for some, the truly surprising addition is the local Starbucks.
"It was surreal. Because you walk in there with your cammies and your rifle on your back thinking'I shouldn't be in a Starbucks,'" said Lisowsky. "You just have to close your eyes and not look outside and just pretend your back in the rear for a second."
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Upon completion of training, the Marines and Sailors of the MEU are scheduled to rejoin Kearsarge Strike Group and continue Maritime Security Operations (MSO).
"As the CENTCOM reserve, we have to be ready to respond to any emergency,"said Hall.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) consists of its Ground Combat Element, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and MEU Command Element. Commanded by Col. Doug Stilwell, the 22nd MEU(SOC) is on a scheduled six-month deployment. For more information about the 22nd MEU(SOC), visit the unit Web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.