INDIAN OCEAN -- During the bi-anual exercise Talisman Sabre 2015, Marine landing craft are playing an essential role to safely transport marines from ships to shore.
Aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), one landing craft utility (LCU) is ensuring the job gets done during this exercise.
Talisman Sabre is a realistic and challenging exercise that improves U.S. and Australia's ability to work together and prepares them to be poised to provide security regionally and globally.
LCUs have a history of providing an effective means of transport for the Marines and their amphibious units.
Chief Boatswain's Mate Gerren Alexander, from Maysville, Kentucky, boatmaster of Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, says the primary mission of the LCU is to provide support to the forward deployed Navy for ship-to-shore movement of personnel, cargo and vehicles.
During Talisman Sabre, LCU 1666 has transported Marines and their equipment, including: humvees, tractors, cranes and trucks to the shores of Australia for beach exercises.
"Our main objective out here is to support the mission of the Marines," said Alexander. "That's going to be our focus this year, getting them where they need to be, that way they can execute their plans, LCUs are important to the Navy mission because we can go where the ship can't go, we can get the troops and cargo to the beach."
Some of the big advantages to the LCU are that it has the capacity to load and unload slightly more cargo than a landing craft air cushion (LCAC), and can traverse areas where hazards on the shore line that might prevent the LCAC from entering.
"This is my first tour being an LCU craft master, a lot of people are unaware of the mission of an LCU detachment," said Alexander. "We're the guys who aren't necessarily on the ground but we go on the ground to get the guys where they need to go to take care of whatever threat there is.
"Their mission is highly important, as is our mission, we're all here to do one job, and because of that the camaraderie comes easily."
Electrician's Mate 1st Class Coley Blount, from Glenwood, New Mexico, says the unique thing about the LCU in comparison to other Navy or Marine amphibious units is that you get to make it your home.
"Being on an LCU is unique because you get to live on it, this separates us from many of the other amphibious units out there," said Blount. "On a big ship you're usually only required to do what your job entails, on an LCU you're doing everything, you can be an electrician's mate, an engineman, helping out with cooking and of course your duty as a boatswain's mate, so everybody learns each other's job, you have to depend on each other...and it really brings everybody together, like a family."
Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1666 is embarked on Ashland. The crew departed from Sasebo, Japan, June 3 with Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is on patrol in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations.
Talisman Sabre is a biennial exercise that provides an invaluable opportunity for nearly 30,000 U.S. and Australian defense forces to conduct operations in a combined, joint and interagency environment that will increase both countries' ability to plan and execute a full range of operations from combat missions to humanitarian assistance efforts.