History made as Marines further expeditionary capability
SUBIC BAY, Philippines -- U.S. Marines made history Sept. 23 through Oct. 2 while executing ship-to-shore transport operations in logistical support of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 in Subic Bay, Philippines.
The Marines set out to prove the concept that components of an Improved Ribbon Bridge can be used in conjunction with Bridge Erection Boats on the open ocean as a ship-to-shore connector to transport ammunition, vehicles and other necessary equipment to Marines on shore.
The exercise in which the concept was tested, known as PHIBLEX, is an annual bilateral training event executed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces.
The IRB is comprised of modular floating platforms that assemble into a bridge to quickly facilitate the movement of Marines and equipment across rivers or other small wet gaps. The specialized boats are the watercraft used to move and correctly position the components of the bridge.
Over the course of the maneuver, the Marines transported over 200,000 pounds of various supplies and equipment to include pallets of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, explosives, Humvees, and trailers using elements of an IRB and BEB in tandem.
Once ashore, the supplies were offloaded by Marines with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to be disseminated among the numerous units participating in PHIBLEX across the Philippines.
The Marines proved that using the IRB as a ship-to-shore connector on the open ocean is a viable transport option, making it an additional organic logistical asset for III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to 1st Lt. Dylan M. Casey, the combat engineer officer in charge with Combat Logistics Detachment 379, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF.
“It gives us a unique asset that not all services have to cross gaps that otherwise couldn’t be spanned,” said Casey, from Boring, Oregon. “The fact that we can raft across almost any length of waterway, in this case the open ocean, gives us more options in a wartime environment.”
The Marines who successfully executed the concept are combat engineers with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF, currently assigned to CLD-379 in support of T-AKE 14-2.
T-AKE 14-2 is a maritime pre-positioned force, multi-country theater security cooperation event that deploys from Okinawa aboard the USNS Sacagawea to participate in training exercises throughout the Asia-Pacific area of operations.
With no accessible beaches in the area to land the IRB components, the Marines were left with only one landing area that was suitable for both the landing and offload, according to Cpl. Andrew W. O’Malley, a combat engineer with CLD-379. The area was an angled concrete ramp just big enough to fit the bridging section, requiring perfect execution from the Marines who operated the BEBs.
“We’ve had to really tighten down and hone our skills in order to land the bridge in a spot that is significantly smaller than where we usually would land,” said O’Malley, from Tampa, Florida. “What has impressed me most is that our current bridge master has managed to make the landing time and time again with no problems at all.”
The bridge master was Cpl. Andrew Boling, from Shreveport, Louisiana, a combat engineer assigned to the detachment. As bridge master, Boling is responsible for directing the operators of the BEBs attached on each side of the IRB component to ensure each boat moves at the appropriate speed, creating a safe landing for both the personnel and equipment.
The proof of this concept has given commanders a new capability when making ship-to-shore transports, according to 1st Lt. George S. Jones, the operations officer with the detachment.
“It’s a privilege to part of this history in the making,” said Jones, from Trenton, New Jersey. “As a logistician, I am getting a first-hand look at how this system can be employed as a means of delivery of logistics from over the horizon to troops on the ground. As they continue to prove this concept, they are opening doors to many possibilities within other military occupational specialties. Commanders may now have another means for moving equipment and supplies from ship-to-shore, instead of waiting on (Landing Craft Utility or Landing Craft Air Cushion).”
The success of the operations was a testament to the hard work of all the Marines involved, according to Casey.
“It’s just a step in the right direction,” said Casey. “We just keep showing that when we’re given a problem, we can figure out different ways to solve that problem. In this case, it’s my Marines that are making history. They are the ones that are allowing all these types of operations to happen. At the end of the day that’s something that they can be proud of and it’s something that means a lot to me as well.”