AAV Platoon marches to Bellows by sea
By Lance Cpl. Iain A. Schnaible
| Marine Corps Base Hawaii | January 11, 2000
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hi --
Marines of Combat Support Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted a 7.5 mile march Jan. 10 to Marine Corps Training Area Bellows for a field exercise.
This march, however, was by no means normal. This march was over water. Leathernecks of CSC's Assault Amphibious Vehicle Platoon loaded onto their AAVs and hit the waves for the two-hour ride to Bellows.
The training was primarily in preparation for the platoon's upcoming deployment to the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island with Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines.
"There were two goals for this operation," said Gunnery Sgt. George W. Young, commander of AAV Plt.. "The first goal was to provide a break-in period for each new vehicle. The idea is to have 20 operational hours for each AAV prior to the deployment. The second, most important goal for this exercise was to properly train AAV drivers in the operation of our new vehicles. We want every driver to have at least five hours of driving time before going to PTA."
Combat Support Company received a fleet of 14 new AAVs recently. The new vehicles improved upon the older ones with the addition of a new engine and suspension intended to drastically improve performance.
The new vehicles, according to Young, have 100 more horsepower than the older ones and have significantly better handling.
The Marines that operate AAVs feel that although the infantry is the backbone of the Marine Corps' mission of being an amphibious force in readiness, they have a place nearly as important.
"I feel my job is one of the most important in the Marine Corps," said Cpl. Justin Jacobsen, an AAV crew chief with AAV Plt. "The Corps' mission has always been to act as an amphibious assault force and secure beachheads. Without us, the grunts would have a lot more trouble taking beachheads and would take more casualties."
An operation such as the water march takes quite a bit of planning, said Young. The platoon must arrange for a refueler to meet them at Bellows, due to the large quantity of fuel used to make the voyage. They must also request the use of the training area, secure safety pyrotechnics (flares) and coordinate with Waterfront Operations to provide safety boats.
Without problems, the trip takes about two hours and with problems it can take up to four, said Young.
For the majority of the vehicles participating in this exercise, the trip only took about two hours, however, two vehicles were at sea for almost four. One vehicle had a problem with its steering system and had to be towed by another vehicle almost the entire way to Bellows training area.
"The trip went really well for the most part," said Jacobsen. "We had a problem with one of the AAVs, but we have that taken care of now."
"The Marines' performance during the march was superb," said Young. "Our water driving skills are very high, especially after our five-month deployment for the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exerise from May to November."
Upon the completion of the training at Bellows, which included night operations and familiarization with the new, more powerful engine, the work was not over. The Marines of AAV Plt. had to get back to K-Bay. This was accomplished by another water march.
"The march back only took about one and a half hours," said Staff Sgt. John M. Glauner, AAV Plt. platoon sergeant. "We didn't have any problems during the trip."
The leathernecks of AAV Plt., CSC, 3rd Marines, benefited greatly from the training, said Glauner.
They are now far more capable of effectively playing their roles as support vehicles in a combat situation.