With coordination with Task
Force 51/53, the Boxer ARG/MEU
got the part in hand and had it
cleared by customs, and “within
48 hours, they were able to source
one from another unit,” Embers
said. “When it’s a no-kidding legit
emergency, an emergent requirement, people will shift focus and
make sure it gets done. That’s
where you have to be well established in the theater” with logistics
support and coordination.
Maintenance at sea is an everyday task.
“It’s a continuous effort, in terms
of getting down there and coordinating with the ship when we can actually turn vehicles on,” Embers said.
“Corrosion is a continuous priority
effort. On ship, there’s only so much
you can do in terms of maintenance
and corrosion control. So you maximize what you can by
continuous topical care … to the point where something
isn’t a rust bucket and by trying to maintain it as best as
you can, knowing that there’s certain things you’re not
going to be able to get at.”
That means getting Marines to maintain good record-
keeping with up-to-date information, keeping up with
limited technical inspections and preventative mainte-
nance and completing corrective maintenance despite
whatever limitations they have aboard ship.
Still, jam-packed storage decks and shared work-spaces can complicate routine maintenance at sea.
A 7-ton truck needing new brakes has to be put on
jacks to get the wheels off, risky on a ship moving at
sea, Heffel said. Marines have to coordinate that work
and liaison with the ship’s combat cargo department,
the ship’s first lieutenant and deck department, and the
ship’s commanding officer has to approve such work,
especially since it requires the vehicle to be unchained.
“It’s not as simple as the Landing Forces decides
to do these things by themselves,” he said. “It takes a
significant participation from a lot of people to come
together and make sure it goes down safely.”
Despite the cramped spaces, Marines underway have
to ensure their vehicles can operate — and even start.
When at sea, during the workups and deployment,
two to three times a week, Heffel said, the ARG’s ships
schedule a vehicle start-up and turn on the ventilation
systems for the cargo decks. The Marines start every
vehicle to make sure they run and do their preventative
maintenance checks. That is the time for the units to
track which vehicles do not start and which need new oil
filters or new brakes or a scheduled inspection or repair,
and notify the ship if, say, a Humvee needs an oil change.
“Until I get that vehicle off ship, I can’t truly ascer-
tain whether it’s good under load, until it’s driving,”
Embers said. “To mitigate that, we do start-ups three
times a week” and Marines look for any corrosion they
then have to address.
During the 2016 deployment, the 13th MEU held
nightly “logistics and maintenance sync” meetings,
except on Sundays, usually aboard Boxer with repre-
sentatives from each landing force unit and the ship’s
supply, deck and combat cargo departments. Their
counterparts on Harpers Ferry and New Orleans joined
in by video teleconference. They would recap the day’s
events and look at short- and long-range events to plan.
“It kept everybody in the loop,” Heffel said, especially
on seemingly minor issues that could impact others. The
regular intra-ARG talks came in handy when the Boxer
ARG and 13th MEU were directed on short notice to the
UAE for a sustainment exercise, rather than to Kuwait as
original plans called. The Marines ashore needed Meals
Ready to Eat, which the MEU drew from its stocks on
New Orleans, which in turn got replenished from stocks
kept in Kuwait and transported by replenishment ship.
Each MEU is responsible for ordering its parts and
equipment. High-priority parts usually get the ships and
other Navy commands involved. No MEU deploys with
every repair or replacement part it needs for a deployment, however, since there is a finite amount of space
available on the amphibious ships.
Every unit has to consider: Do you know what
you’re going to take?
A Landing Craft Air Cushion assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5 enters the well deck
of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during well deck operations off the
coast of Southern California Sept. 28, 2015. Tight confines aboard Amphibious
Readiness Group ships, and even tighter schedules during deployments, make
planning, coordination and execution of repairs and maintenance essential.