PACIFIC OCEAN --
A ship cuts through the ocean surface, its sleek and angled design resembles a stealth fighter, but its potential on the water gives the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit a capability that goes beyond the sea.
Currently on its maiden deployment, the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) serves as a miniature Marine Air-Ground Task Force for the 13th MEU - Boxer Amphibious Ready Group during the 2011 Western Pacific Deployment.
“We can do essentially the same missions as the Boxer just based on the fact we can communicate and run things better than before,” said Lt. Col. Craig Wonson, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th MEU. “That right there has really revolutionized the ability for the MEU to operate in a distributed manner”
The Marines and sailors with the 13th MEU have trained to conduct Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, Humanitarian Assistance Operations, Visit Board Search and Seizure, mechanized raids and other operations. The Green Bay is designed to support these missions.
The Green Bay, a San Antonio Class Landing Platform Dock ship, boasts a flight deck, well deck, a landing force operations center and powerful communications capabilities seen aboard WASP Class ships such as the USS Boxer (LHD-4). However, the Green Bay has been engineered to carry these features in 684 ft. long by 105 ft. wide hull, approximately three-quarters the size of the Boxer.
Its smaller sized flight deck is capable of launching four CH-46E “Sea Knights” simultaneously. It also has a hangar bay capable of storing two additional helicopters and workspace for aircraft maintainers to support sustained flight operations.
“It’s a great place to work here on the Green Bay and it’s a great environment between the blue and green side aviation,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Dehaven, an avionics technician with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced). “I feel like I have all the tools I need to help keep the birds up and running.”
Deep within the ship, Marines have the space to store Amphibious Assault Vehicles, tanks, 7-ton trucks and Humvees. In addition, it has the space to hold dozens of containers that can logistically sustain more than 1,000 Marines and sailors at sea. A well deck provides a space to store two Landing Craft Air Cushioned and the means to offload amphibious assets and cargo.
“You can put an extreme amount of stuff on this ship,” said Cpl. Cory M. Best, assistant platoon sergeant with Combat Cargo section. “We have quadcons, palcons, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, tanks, Humvees, 7-tons and a big variety of equipment. Through the flight deck and well deck we can on and off load the supplies and equipment. It’s not like we have a storage lot back at [Camp] Pendleton so we have to make every square foot count. Sometimes it surprises me how much equipment we fit in the ship.”
The Green Bay’s communication capabilities provide the MEU staff with real-time integration between ships, Geographic Combatant Commanders and coalition forces. The ship also has a video teleconference suite, additional satellite bandwidth to accommodate the needs to the 13th MEU and her subordinate elements.
“It benefits the MEU and the Geographic Combatant Commanders in a sense that back in the day, MEU’s used to have to go out in a three-ship configuration and they couldn’t leave one another because there was only one ship capable of command and control and that was the flat deck,” said Wonson. “This ship has actually revolutionized what the MEU’s are capable of because now you have two ships that have a communications, command and control suite that are similar to one another. What we’re doing with the MEU now, the MEU commander has the ability to respond to multiple things going on in theater, shoot the Boxer to take care of a possible Non-Combatant Evacuation or a HAO and Green Bay is going to go on your own and execute counter-piracy operations.”
While this ship is designed to give the 13th MEU capabilities and versatility to conduct a broad range of missions, its modern design also employs several features that benefit the Marine at the squad level.
“The L-shaped racks are great and the personal living spaces for the Marines are a lot better, which makes it a lot easier for deployment on ship,” said Sgt. Daniel Lorona, a squad leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who has deployed for a second time while serving on this type of ship. “I know having an Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer is also a plus because Marines can continue to train without necessarily firing off rounds but get more trigger time and practice the basics.”
With all the technology that comes with this ship, its crew can keep everything running efficiently and mission capable to support the missions and demands required of the 13th MEU.
“The biggest thing I have learned, or I should say, confirmed, is the unwavering dedication of my sailors to accomplish any mission we place in front of them,” said Navy Cmdr. Kevin P. Meyers, the commanding officer of the USS Green Bay. “They have worked tirelessly from the moment I took command, and I will never forget the hard work and effort they have put in to getting Green Bay safely onto her maiden deployment. This ship has significantly more command and control capability than the older LPD class ships, and we look forward to putting that to use on our deployment.”
The Marines and sailors aboard the USS Green Bay will write the opening chapter of this ship’s history as they sail on the world’s oceans in support of operations throughout the globe as a mini-MAGTF; one that can one day answer the call to respond to the will of the Geographic Combatant Commanders and the nation whose colors it bears.