ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC-20) -- A select group of Marines had a difficult task in October. They received a mission to disrupt and defeat terrorism in the Horn of Africa region, and their route would take them through many stretches of hostile waters. Sound dangerous?
Five Marines chosen with a unique security specialty answered that question with, "No problem."
Sergeant Erick J. Hodge, Sgt. Kris D. Floyd, Cpl. Tyler S. Spellich, Cpl. Patrick A. Barrett and Lance Cpl. Matthew B. Lupton were hand-picked from small craft company, Headquarters Battalion, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C. to integrate with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa security detachment.
CJTF-HOA was sent to eastern Africa to aid in the fight against global terrorism. The task force is comprised primarily of Marines and Sailors from 2d MarDiv.
"All of us at small craft detachment have infantry backgrounds, so we know what we are doing, and we are very good at it," said Hodge, small craft detachment noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and Port Huron, Mich. native. "We know how to work with security detachment, and we will give them water capabilities, however, we have to remain flexible because this type of security measure has never been used before."
According to Hodge, utilizing a small craft detachment for this type of operation is a first, because Zodiacs are usually only used for a Marine Expeditionary Unit's ship-to-shore raids.
Unlike most MEU deployments, however, the CJTF-HOA assignment was last-minute. This meant they must rely on training they participated in at Camp Lejeune's Onslow Beach to make their mission successful.
The five-week course at Onslow Beach included navigation and chart work, small-boat handling and confined spaces, beach raids and landings as well as ship-to-shores and formations," explained Spellich, native of Chicago, Ill. "We also have to know basic medical procedures and have a 1st class swim qualification or better."
Professional training and years of experience taught them to work together to set up the small craft quickly. The detachment brought inflatable Zodiacs with 55 horsepower engines. They are easily packed, quickly unpacked and accessible at a moment's notice.
Once the Zodiacs are ready, the detachment's basic mission is to keep other boats away from the ship. Patrolling in the small craft is similar to the guard duty many Marines are assigned, but for this "guard duty," they patrol the area around the ship
"Given the amount of time we had to prepare for this mission, I think we are doing exceptionally well," said Hodge. "We are ready and waiting to play our role whenever and wherever our boats can be utilized."