smaller crew, more tight-knit. I have more time with
them than I would on ship.”
Through the prescribed Personnel Qualification
Standards, Sailors learn a range of skills. They can
drive Humvees and MTVRs, control traffic, operate
equipment and work up to become a BPT commander.
“Everything is learned here, in house,” O’Brien said.
Ideally, everyone, whether officer or enlisted, can do
every task. That includes surf observations.
“It’s a lot of hard work and effort put into it,” Keys, 19
years old and a recent addition to the unit after deploying
with USS Peleliu, said of SUROBs. “I have a much differ-
ent view of the beach now, just looking at waves.”
Sailors learn how to measure winds, waves and speed
of littoral currents, which can push and jostle craft in the
surf zone and often change. The unit’s four or five Bosuns
— limited duty officers and warrant officers — are more
experienced and help teach Sailors the science behind it.
Since the Navy retired its fleet of LSTs, or Landing
Ships, Tank, that beached ashore, “we generally don’t
land things on the dirt. We try to avoid that, at all
costs. That’s a bad thing, to ground a craft. But that’s
what we do,” Plew said. “For a surface warfare officer,
that’s not in my DNA. You don’t want to do that.”
The unit’s proximity to Camp Pendleton, Calif., an
hour’s drive north, makes it easier to access training
beaches and work with the Marines, officers said.
“We’re fortunate enough where we can train with
the Marine Corps every day,” Plew said. The Marine
Corps base has several well-used landing beaches and
the Del Mar Boat Basin, home to a marina and ramps
for LCUs and amphibious assault vehicles, so teams
get to practice LCAC and conventional operations.
“We don’t have to get a ship underway,” Plew said.
Landing and launching craft ashore has its share of
challenges, and driving a craft like a LARC or Humvee
into the water can be unnerving to the uninitiated.
“Taking a Humvee, driving it into the water off of a
craft onto a beach is almost an unnatural act,” Plew
said. “You have three or four feet of water coming into
the Humvee and you have to take that thing and con-
tinue it into the surf zone and let the water spill out.
Keeping your foot on the gas, as a young Marine or
young Sailor, is something hard to do. The natural
reaction is to stop. So it’s valuable training.”
More training these days is with Marines, many
of whom were focused more on ground operations
than maritime environments during more than a
decade of war.
“They have not seen the amphibious operations
we would have seen 15 years ago or more,” O’Brien
That’s changing. A few weeks earlier, BMU- 1
worked with Marines driving M1A2 Abrams tanks off
craft through the water onto the beach.
“It’s a skill set they are getting back to,” she said. ■
Gidget Fuentes reports from Coronado, Calif.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015
Sailors assigned to Assault Craft Unit 2 and Beachmaster Unit 2 load equipment aboard Landing Craft Utility vessels
before leaving for a deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility Feb. 4, 2014, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little
Creek-Fort Story, Va.