Officially, each BMU has a half-dozen key missions:
■ Support moving troops, equipment, vehicles and supplies on conventional craft and landing craft air cushions
(LCACs) through the surf zone and across the beach.
■ Debark casualties, enemy prisoners of war and noncombatant personnel.
■ Surf zone and beach salvage operations.
■ Beach surveys and determining, reporting and monitoring the Modified Surf Index and SUROBs in the
■ Support Military Prepositioning Ships (MPS) pier-side or in-stream offload.
■ Support humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.
Each BMU deploys Beach Party Team (BPT) detachments of 26 to 30 personnel chopped to amphibious
squadrons to support Amphibious Ready Groups and
local operations and training. BMU- 1 has 150 to 160
personnel. On the East Coast, BMU- 2 is similarly sized
Deploying BPTs take two LARCs, two Humvees, a
bulldozer — with a Sailor on temporary duty from an
assault craft battalion — and a Medium Tactical
Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). Each team is spread
across the three ships of the Amphibious Ready
Group, which normally include landing craft utility
“We organize more like how the Marine Corps does
than the Navy does,” Plew said. “We’ll have a small
team. We are very people-centric, since we don’t have
a lot of equipment. There’s not a whole lot of technol-
ogy to do what we do.”
The arrival of USS America, the
first of two new air-centric
amphibious assault ships that lack
well decks, might require tweaking
the detachment since the
Amphibious Ready Group may
have fewer naval landing craft with
just two amphibious ships. It
remains unclear how the require-
ment will change.
“They haven’t said how they are
going to put that [Amphibious
Ready Group] together yet,” said
Plew, “but however they do, we’ll
mix and match depending on
For Beachmaster duty, the days
of shorts and T-shirts are long
gone, with the green camouflage
utility being the daily uniform.
Working often long days in hot or
humid climates and living at the
beach is a workout in itself.
Trudging for hours through the sand, heavy on the legs
when wet, is not for everyone.
“It’s in the hot sun, on the beach, in and out of the
surf zone. It is a lot of physical labor,” Plew said. “It is
not a guy sitting at a watch station.”
Every Beachmaster must be qualified at least as a
“Most of our Sailors don’t come here with any of
these skill sets to be a Beachmaster,” O’Brien said.
Many do not realize the physical demands of the job,
one reason the unit puts an emphasis on physical training and schedules time for runs, swims or exercise into
every Plan of the Day. Just that morning, the unit ran five
miles. Along the beach, of course.
There’s no schoolhouse where Beachmasters learn
their craft. With just over 300 personnel, “we are really a
niche group,” Plew noted.
“This is all on-the-job” training, O’Brien said. The
unit often gets junior Sailors, “a lot of them right out
of boot camp. This is their first duty station.”
They include boatswain’s mates, gunner’s mates and
information systems technicians, but many are undes-
ignated seamen. Few know what Beachmasters do, she
said, “so our job here is to teach them how to be a
Sailors are encouraged to rack up their qualifications.
Gillig, a 22-year veteran, joined the unit almost a
year ago after a career with the cruiser, destroyer and
“My learning curve was I had to go from zero to 100
really fast,” he said. “I love this job. It’s a smaller team,
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 32 SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015
Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Matthew Jackson flings a tennis ball into the waves
of the beach at Coronado, Calif., with a Chuckit! ball launcher as the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer sits offshore. The Chuckit! was among the low-tech tools Beachmaster Unit 1 used to calculate wave speed and other factors for a surf observation report before guiding Lighter Amphibious Resupply
Cargo craft from Boxer onto the beach.