CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The whisper of engines slowly grew louder until it was a roar over the crash of waves on sand. Dots on the horizon, dwarfed by the silhouette of the USS Whidbey Island, crawled along in the ocean until the distinct shapes of assault amphibious vehicles formed and appeared larger than the landing ship in the distance.
The AAVs left spouts of water and plumes of white and black smoke in their wakes, and growled as tracks met the beach and the vehicles rushed forward. The Marines had landed as approximately 40 Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, conducted amphibious operation training aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 15–16.
“This is the first time we’re doing this together as a platoon,” said Cpl. Kyle Severt, an AAV crew chief with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company. “It’s important because our job is to keep the Marine Corps amphibious. We have to practice in the water to be good at it because this is one of the most dangerous things that we do.”
The exercise began with the platoon’s 10 vehicles plunging into the Atlantic Ocean and practicing various maneuvers. The Marines conducted landing drills several times before heading several miles out to sea to board the Whidbey Island and complete their well deck training.
After a night on the ship, the Marines again boarded their vehicles and splashed into the ocean, making one final beach assault.
“The Marine Corps is amphibious by nature,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Carstensen, an AAV crew chief with the unit. “We hit beaches and we hit with speed and ferocity. That’s our job and if we don’t get that training, how is the infantry going to rely on us to get them to the beach safely?”
The use of amphibious operations allows Marines to land personnel and equipment without the need of secure aircraft landing zones. The AAVs have the capability to carry personnel and supplies, as well as provide their own firepower and security.
“We are the first wave to hit the beach,” said 1st Lt. Ian Budge, the commander of 3rd Platoon. “AAVs let us project power from any kind of naval platform that can travel the world. AAV operators are the only Marines who will actively practice this and we will be the direct advisors for ground assaults.”
Naval-based assaults are not the only option the military utilizes to move troops into hostile territory, but they can be more practical in certain situations. Direct assaults from the sea carry less risk of being surrounded than inserting personnel and equipment in land controlled by an enemy with aircraft, and allow for more direct supply lines.
“Aircraft have great potential to go inland over long distances,” Budge said. “AAVs, however, are the primary means for establishing a foothold on any land where we don’t already have a presence. Constant training with AAVs is important for us so that if anything kicks off, we’re ready to answer the call.”