As published by the Navy Newstand on July 1, 2005
Peleliu Conducts Amphibious Training Off Hawaii
By Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, USS Peleliu Public Affairs
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) — In a test of their interoperability, about 200 Marines embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and conducted amphibious training on and off the shores of Hawaii June 27-30.
The training was conducted at military training beaches on the islands of Oahu and Kauai to help several platoons of the 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., prepare to deploy by the end of the year.
“This training is a stepping stone to get us ready,” said Marine Capt. Benjamin Venning, company commander. “The AAVs (amphibious assault vehicles) still perform the signature mission of the Marine Corps, [and] our primary purpose is to get our infantry Marines to the fight inland and sustain them in-shore.”
“Training is always good,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW) Daniel Avila, Peleliu 2nd Division leading petty officer. Avila and his Sailors manned the ship’s well decks and ensured the 19 embarked AAVs and one landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) made it safely out to sea and then back onto the ship.
Avila said his Sailors did “very well” and were “very quick” despite long hours. Most of the deck department worked at least 13 hours a day.
“It was tough at times,” said Avila, who was responsible for the overall safety of the well deck operations. “But we were able to work all the problems out and get everything to where it was supposed to go.”
Avila has done well deck operations many times before during his 10-year Navy career, but he said that before this evolution, 80 percent of his division had no prior experience.
“It was good for all our new personnel,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class (SW/AW) Eric Hagan, who works with Avila in the well deck. “It gave our guys a feel of what we will be doing when we go on [deployment], especially since some of them have never even seen an AAV before. The new guys have to know exactly what they are doing.”
Seaman Joshua Welsh is one of those “new guys.” He joined the Navy just eight months ago and helped with the LCAC and AAV recovery for the first time. He said he “really liked it.”
“It was a really cool experience. I mean, it’s up to me and my shipmates to get them safely into the ship,” said 23-year-old Welsh, who plans to become a boatswain’s mate. “We are responsible for other people’s lives, and we work together as a team to get the job done.”
“It takes a lot of work and man-hours to do what we do,” said Welsh. “People could get hurt, and they don’t because it’s so well planned.”
Welsh, who came straight to Peleliu after boot camp, said during the training he got up at 4 a.m. and didn’t go to bed until 10 p.m. “But these past few days have been great,” he said. “It’s painful, but it’s fun.”
Welsh also got four well deck-related personnel qualification standards (PQS) completed and said he feels like he’s ready for Peleliu’s upcoming six-month deployment.
For Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Westby, driving his AAV through the Pacific Ocean and onto the beach was “a lot of fun.”
“I love it,” said Westby. “It’s not something you get to do every day, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Westby, who joined the Marines about two and a half years ago, joined his battalion on their nearly nine-month deployment to Iraq and “loved [driving] over there, too.”
In Iraq, the battalion spent most of its time on land, so this training in Hawaii was a good refresher for water operations, said Westby. “It was a way to get us back in the swing of things,” he said.
After a few days of training ashore, the Marines coordinated their return to Peleliu for transport back to their home base.
“For one ‘splash,’ it takes tons of communication between the Marines and Sailors,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Kim, a platoon commander. The coordination between the two services is “very important,” he said, and every member of the Navy/Marine Corps team knows it.
“Being that we are part of each other, we need to learn how to work together,” said Westby, “because we have an important job to do.”
For related news, visit the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lha5/.