ABOARD USS BATAAN --
Floating on the ocean for weeks at a time can lead some Marines and sailors to ask “what day is it?” But with a little food and fun, any day can be a weekend at the beach.
Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and USS Bataan took a break from the daily grind to build morale on the “Steel Beach” of Bataan’s flight deck June 26, 2009.
“For the embarked Marines on board, one of the most important components of our readiness is our morale,” said Lt. Col. Rob Fulford, the Commanding Officer of Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, the 22nd MEU’s Ground Combat Element.
Marines and sailors had many activities available to entertain them.
At first light, dozens of Marines and sailors were up on the flight deck, split into staggered-start pace-groups, for a five-kilometer Fun-Run.
“It allowed the Marines to actually break a little bit of a sweat,” said Fulford. “Now we’re having some food and building some comradery with some music and a lot of fun activities.”
On the fore-end of the deck, near MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with their wings folded to conserve deck space, the beach-goers tossed beanbags at wooden targets.
Nearby, teams of three and four people played a half-court basketball tournament against the side of the ship’s superstructure, which houses the ship’s bridge and flight-deck control.
Farther down the deck, the football “field” split space with the giant-tricycle races running past the front of AV-8B Harrier II fighters and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters lined up in their standby positions.
And off the aft end of the deck, Marines and sailors drove golf balls into the water.
Just like any other beach party, there was plenty of food to go with the fun, including barbecue chicken, sausage and ribs and a wide variety of side dishes.
“My favorite part was the food, because I love barbecue,” said Cpl. Joseph Mecham, a radio operator for the MEU and native of Kekauh, Hawaii. “Today’s events reminded me of being back home. It’s a real morale booster.”
All this fun doesn’t spontaneously form from the ether. It takes planning and coordination by several key people involved in the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program.
“‘Steel Beach’ picnic is all about having fun,” said Bataan’s MWR officer, or “Fun Boss,” Meghan Heine, a native of Elgin, Ill.
Heine and her team of section representatives planned the events and volunteered their time to set up and supervise the run and the games. Other Marines and sailors sacrificed their time to cook food and haul drinks from below-decks.
Heine said her biggest payoff when she does events like this is just seeing people enjoying themselves.
Sgt. Lori Warder, one of the MEU’s MWR reps, feels the same.
“It’s really awesome seeing everybody get together,” said Warder, a native of Charleston, S.C. “I like seeing everybody out here having a good time and doing what they want to do.”
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is a scalable, multi-purpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and sailors. Led by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, the 22nd MEU consists of its Ground Combat Element, BLT 3/2; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.
The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard the ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, is currently serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command. The unit deployed from Camp Lejeune May 15, 2009 on a scheduled seven-month deployment.
For more information, stories and photographs from the 22nd MEU, please visit the unit Website at http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/22ndmeu/