SPECIAL REPORT / MAINTENANCE, REPAIR & OVERHAUL
It was early in the deployment, with an offload in U.S. Seventh Fleet just beginning, when it came to a sudden halt. It could not happen at a worse time.
The crew aboard the dock landing ship USS
Harpers Ferry was getting ready to launch a utility
landing craft (LCU), but a pair of assault amphibious
vehicles (AAVs) with the 13th Marine Expeditionary
Unit (MEU) in the ship’s well deck would not start.
They were “deadlined” and could not be moved, so
they blocked the LCU from leaving the ship. The
repair parts the Marines needed to fix the AAVs were
not at hand. They were stored on the amphibious
assault ship USS Boxer.
Intense coordination quickly ensued between the
landing force on Harpers Ferry and commanders and
Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1 staff on Boxer,
and “everybody engaged on what was needed,” said
Capt. Dustin Heffel, PHIBRON 1’s combat cargo officer.
Boxer soon launched a small boat and a crew to take
the parts to Harpers Ferry.
Marines worked throughout the
night to fix the vehicles, Heffel
recalled, “so in the morning, both
AAVs were up and able to come
off the well deck, and the LCU
launched on time as scheduled.”
Key to that success, Marines
say, was the relationships they had
firmed up with their Navy counter-
parts with the Boxer Amphibious
Ready Group’s (ARG’s) ships,
which included the transport dock
ship USS New Orleans, 13th MEU
subordinate units and PHIBRON 1.
That “was a good example of how,
when good relationships are built
and maintained, those problems
that might seem complex at the
last minute or a crisis scenario are
not as bad,” said Heffel, speaking
in early October from Boxer, berthed at its homeport
in San Diego.
Maintenance and repair of the landing force’s stocks
can happen almost anywhere on ship, whether planned
“Any vehicle can break anyplace on the ship,” Heffel
said. Repairing a Humvee on the upper vehicle deck on
a side port, for example, could risk spilling any kind of
hazardous material or oils or fuels, which “is going to be
more of a concern than if it’s down in the lower V [deck]
where it’s not as exposed to the elements,” he said.
So coordination between the “blue-green” team —
the ship’s crew and embarked Marine landing force
— is critical to sorting out getting those repairs and
maintenance done properly, and safely, when at sea.
Those relationships often begin a year earlier, when
the MEU and the assigned ships and amphibious squadron come together to plan for a scheduled deployment.
That 2016 deployment of the Boxer ARG and 13th
MEU provides a look at how maintenance and repair
The challenge of managing and fixing
equipment, vehicles and aircraft at sea
By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent
With finite space available on ships, a fully loaded Marine
Expeditionary Unit deploying with bulkier and bigger vehicles and
equipment makes for a tight squeeze below decks and little elbow
room for Marines doing repairs and maintenance at sea.
n Ship load plans help organize logistics to support maintenance
while on ship or ashore, especially far from the supply chain,
Marines say, but forward-deployed logistics teams can help
smooth the process.
n A strong “blue-green” team relationship built during predeployment workups can be critical to responding to emergent maintenance demands while deployed.
n Every unit has to consider: Do you know what you’re going