Nearly 400 Marines and equipment from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were loaded aboard dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) over a span of four days to begin a scheduled six-month deployment with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
The smooth and successful evolution would not have happened without the practice, preparation and full cooperation between the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps teams. The two services’ longstanding brotherhood is nothing new. Coming together to share one space and rely on each other to complete a mission is what the amphibious Navy is all about.
“We get a better appreciation for what the Navy does when they are on the ship,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Anthony Panzarella from Charles Town, West Virginia, who was previously enlisted in the Navy. “[Sailors] are aboard for a lot longer than we are, and we can learn a lot from them and what they do.”
Panzarella sees the deployment as a huge opportunity for both Sailors and Marines. It will allow them to mutually develop both personally and professionally, ultimately helping the team complete their mission of ensuring maritime security and projecting a presence in Europe and the Middle East.
Having a deployable Marine Corps unit embarked aboard Oak Hill and throughout the Iwo Jima ARG introduces more unique Navy and Marine Corps capabilities and helps Sailors. Hospitalman Jacob Berry, assigned to Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th MEU, showcases the integration of the blue-green team and serves as an example of the link between the two forces.
“I think everyone has something they bring to the table,” Berry said. “We have a slightly different skillset than the corpsmen aboard Oak Hill, but they also have a lot of capabilities that we don’t.”
Berry and the other hospital corpsmen assigned to the MEU bring firsthand knowledge that is accessible to benefit the professional development of Oak Hill Sailors. This sharing of knowledge would not be possible without the close cooperation of the blue-green team.
The ability of the team to execute the global mission at hand is directly affected by how well the two forces come together and support one another. Although differences between the two uniquely capable forces exist, the overall integration of the Sailors and Marines embarked on this six-month journey is that of a well-oiled machine.
“It’s built around being mutually supportive,” Panzarella said. “We have to be ready anytime, anywhere.”
From Marines providing logistical support in combat cargo, to boatswain’s mates directing well deck operations with assault amphibious vehicles, to hospital corpsmen having boots on the ground alongside Marines, the teamwork and cooperation aboard Oak Hill is a crucial part of a successful deployment.
The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th MEU and includes the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), Oak Hill, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 8 and FST 4, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2, and the embarked staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.
Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group