GUAM -- Marines and Sailors currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) completed their agricultural wash down after several days cleaning, Feb. 18. The wash down completion is one of the MEU’s final missions before arriving on U.S. soil early next month.
According to Capt. James L. Williams, assistant logistics officer, 13th MEU (SOC) Command Element, wash downs are mandatory requirements by U.S. Pacific Fleet for vessels entering the United States.
“Pacific Fleet requires us to have all our equipment and vehicles agriculturally certified to prevent us from bringing any plants, animals into the United States,” said Williams. “We cannot go back to our port of entry without having everything certified.”
The introduction of foreign plants, insects and animals to California could affect its ecology, said Williams. An example of this was introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly to the United States, he said.
“They were introduced to U.S. via cargo from ships that were not agriculturally certified,” he said. “We had an epidemic of fruit flies in Southern California, which we spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate.”
A number of certified agricultural inspectors of Marines and Sailors with the MEU and Expeditionary Strike Group 1 took on the task of assuring that every piece of gear was unsoiled.
According to Williams, the inspections are “white glove” detailed.
“It has to be as clean as if it were coming out of an assembly line,” he said.
Upon its arrival to Guam on Feb. 14, the MEU organized two quarantine locations for the wash down, which took the Marines a couple of days to establish. Vehicles small enough to drive through the ships’ side ramps, such as High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), were cleaned in designated areas in the port facility. Vehicles, such as seven-ton trucks, which were too large for the side ramps, were transported by Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) to a cleaning sight near a beach.
After its establishment the wash racks were manned and opened 72 hours straight until all the gear was cleaned and inspected. Weathering the heat and rain was one of the obstacles Marines had to endure throughout the arduous days.
“The heat was pretty intense and a lot of Marines were sun burnt,” said Sgt. Versayn G. Reynaga Garcia, who was in charge of ensuring the wash racks ran smoothly. “A lot of the gear was hard to keep clean because of the rain and the mud.”
According to Reynaga Garcia, motor transportation operator, MEU Service Support Group 13, the only counter they had for the heat and sun was hydration and sunscreen lotion.
“We really couldn’t sit in the shade because there really wasn’t much shade out there,” he said. “When the Marines had an opportunity to sit down, they would sit down and hydrate for a bit, and continue their work.”
According to Williams, all the Marines who were involved in the entire process completed their job phenomenally despite dealing with the constant rain, hot sun and humidity of the island.
“The Marines stepped up and they took care of things,” said Reynaga Garcia.