USS NEW YORK --
The Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group celebrated the halfway point of their deployment aboard the USS New York, July 28, 2012.
They commemorated the day alongside the opening festivities of the Shellback Ceremony, a day set aside for the naval tradition of welcoming Marines and Sailors, called pollywogs, who are crossing the equator for the first time.
"It's good to know that we have finally reached the halfway point of the deployment," said Lt. Col. Aaron W. Adams, 24th MEU executive officer. "It has been a very busy and productive several months since we left home."
The Marines and Sailors of the 24th MEU and the Iwo Jima ARG participated in bilateral training during Exercise African Lion 12 in Morocco and Exercise Eager Lion 12 in Jordan along with unilateral training in Kuwait during the first half of their deployment.
"The can-do spirit and pervasive teamwork of New York's Sailors and Marines has shown through in every challenge we've faced in the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility," said Capt. Jon Kreitz, USS New York commanding officer. "I couldn't be prouder of everyone's performance."
The blue and green team of the USS New York rejoiced as they bid adieu to the first half of their deployment are ready and began preparing for the remainder. They celebrated with a steel-beach picnic along with games, including sumo wrestling suits and a talent show.
To commemorate the important day and combined ceremonies, the Navy invited sea legend Davy Jones and his royal court aboard the ship and performed skits and songs for the revelry of the crew.
"It's a tradition of crossing the equator and appeasing the sea gods," said Petty Officer 1st Class First Name Guidry from Raine, La. "It's also a point of pride, how many people can say they've been across the equator aboard a ship? And the Marines and Sailors go through it together so it builds camaraderie. It's a good time and everybody has fun."
Ceremonies and celebrations allowed the Marines and Sailors to mingle outside their workspace and break the monotony of ship life, which can quickly become dull and slow with reduced opportunities for Marines to train and maintain morale. Off ship, the Marines find time passes much differently with their days consumed by training.
"Getting on and off the ship a lot has been good for these guys," said Staff Sgt. Walter Duncan, CH-53E detachment control chief, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced), 24th MEU. "It's helped the time go by faster for them.”
The aviation Marines saw their most difficult challenges in Jordan during Exercise Eager Lion 12. From the minimalistic approach to on-ground operations to maintaining a daily water supply to wash the aircraft, the Marines and Sailors maintained 24-hour operations to keeptheir aircraft mission ready, said Duncan.
With four months and two major training exercises behind them, the Marines and Sailors expressed their motivation and excitement at facing the rest of their deployment.
"The key now is to ensure that we stay focused and committed to our mission especially in the dynamic environment in which we work. That way we make sure we bring everyone home together in one piece," said Adams.