ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6) -- When the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is underway aboard its Navy ships, it takes collaboration between all service members to accomplish missions and put planned training missions into action. All sections are vital to support of the MEU, but one is especially important that at times may be forgotten.
The Marines and Sailors of combat cargo insure that all the cargo and personnel get from the ship to the correct boat or aircraft for movement to the shore. “The MEU comes to combat cargo with plans to move cargo, vehicles and personnel. My Marines and Sailors working get that done,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Hilton, flight deck combat cargo assistant.
Combat cargo is made up of Marines and Sailors from all sections and jobs who assigned to combat cargo based on the needs of the Marine Corps and Navy, according to Lance Cpl. Chris Dodd, flight deck team leader whose primary military occupational specialty is rifleman.
Members of combat cargo are broken up into two separate platoons; well deck (surface) platoon and the flight deck platoon.
The well deck platoon consists of three teams; chaining team, false beach team and the manifest team. The chaining team unchains the vehicles and other cargo and arranges it in the well deck for the false beach team to load onto the landing crafts. The false beach team positions the vehicles and cargo in the well deck, said Hilton. The manifest team has a roster of what goes where and ensures that the vehicles, cargo and personnel end up on the correct LCAC or LCU.
The other branch of combat cargo is the flight deck platoon, which is comprised of seven teams; four Marine and three Navy.
Of those seven teams, three work on the flight deck from designated spots and are there to escort cargo and personnel to the aircraft.. The ramp and manifest teams controls cargo and personnel staged on the ramp, ensuring that it is all in correct order and ready to be escorted to the aircraft by the three teams on the flight deck, said Petty Officer Third Class, Ashley Schuroff, flight deck team leader, who is also a storekeeper on ship. The two reserve teams are on standby in case of emergencies such as a mass casualty drills and also the teams rotate to keep Marines and Sailors from working long ten hour days constantly, said Dodd.
“The most difficult part working for combat cargo is moving people and gear on the first and last days on ship,” said Dodd. That is when there is the most chaos and it just makes the process that much harder for the teams.”
This job is vital to the mission accomplishment of the MEU, said Hilton. Getting the job done correctly and in a timely manner is crucial to mission accomplishment during training evolutions.