Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I remember like it was yesterday, though it was 2003 when I was standing inside the well deck of the USS Essex amphibious assault ship. I was a U.S. Marine, sailing off the coast of Hawaii on a training mission. Now, it was our turn to assault a Hawaiian beach.See the pictures >
But we weren’t using rubber boats, or swimming. We were geared up, over 20 of us, in the back of an Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV), better known as an “amtrack.”
Before settling into our tight quarters inside the troop carrier, we were briefed by the crew. “When we launch off the back into the ocean, if we don’t come up from the water after five seconds, you can panic,” one said.
“Oh sh–,” I muttered, just before successfully launching from the rear of the ship along with everyone else in the amtrack.
Then we headed for the beach to train for what the Marine Corps does best: amphibious operations.
The bottom or well deck of the amphibious ship is loaded with vehicles. When AAV's launch, they'll partially flood this area with water.
There's only one way in, one way out. Marines file into the back and up the ramp that will seal behind them.
Inside the ship's well deck, the AAV is 'buttoned-up', or sealed. No windows, no idea what's happening outside. Just you and your fellow Marines waiting.
But they don't go it alone. The Marines have Amphibious Assault Battalions with plenty of AAVs to take riflemen into the fight.
It's powered by a 400 horsepower engine that can do 8 mph in the water and 45 mph once it hits land.
40 mm grenade launcher, .50 calibre machine gun, or 25 mm Bushmaster cannon (that last one is the favourite).
This is a vulnerable time for Marines, so they need to move fast, get away from the AAV and not bunch up.
But the AAV definitely makes the Marine Corps the experts in delivering waterborne troops into the fight.
And while AAV's will often stick around with infantry troops, they won't be far from their home onboard the ship.
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