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U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations – From sunrise to sunset, Marines assigned to the Battalion Landing Team and Combat Logistics Battalion conduct training every day to increase their physical fitness, knowledge and lethality aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill.

On most days, training begins before sunrise. Marines from the BLT can be found on the flight deck conducting drills with various weapon systems. Typically they consist of remedial actions, to clear a weapon’s malfunction, as well as focusing on speed reloads. Performing these drills in complete darkness refines the Marines’ ability to be proficient in darkened and low-light situations. During these drills, Marines learn to react quickly in the event of a rifle malfunction, and in a matter of seconds, they know how to correct the issue and continue engaging the ‘enemy’ while still being aware of their surroundings.

“The limited space available on the USS Oak Hill can limit the training that can be conducted on a day-to-day basis,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric Anderson. “So, we have to get creative where we can train. As the BLT, we must ensure that we are always physically and mentally prepared to execute a mission at any time – day or night. We need to be prepared to execute.”

At first light, Marines begin their day with a rigorous physical training event consisting of cardiovascular training and strength-building exercises. This routine keeps the Marines in top physical condition and improves their readiness and lethality. Officers, staff non-commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers work together as a team to guide, lead and instruct Marines on the benefits of a well-rounded physical training regimen – while ensuring the well-being and safety of their personnel.

“Training in the basics ensures that each Marine is able to do his or her job within the bigger scheme of maneuver,” Anderson continued. “Brilliance in the basics doesn’t always require massive amounts of time, space or logistics, but it can be mastered on the small unit level with some dedication from small unit leaders.”

Throughout the day, in almost every corner of the Oak Hill’s well deck, there are Marines performing Marine Corps Martial Arts Program techniques to improve their hand-to-hand combat techniques, leadership skills and combat readiness. MCMAP doctrine teaches Marines not only how to perform a round kick, but it also teaches discipline and leadership skills every Marine must master.

MCMAP instructor Staff Sgt. Chris Anderson explained, “Being able to incorporate MCMAP in everyday training while deployed allows Marines to continue their skills as war fighters, develops these young men and women into ethical warriors, and also incorporates the mental and spiritual toughness that will be demanded of them when placed into a kinetic environment.”

In the ship’s classrooms and lounges, Marines of all ranks are either teaching or attending various forms of professional military education. PME is one of the top priorities of the CLB and the BLT aboard the Oak Hill because it covers a wide range of topics. Many of these contain a surplus of training, continuing education and other activities designed to provide development to the Marines at various points in their career. The PME classes also prepares them for their next level of responsibilities.

Every training event, no matter the size, can prove vital to the success of any given mission. Marines aboard the Oak Hill understand training sessions can sometimes delay the completion of projects, planning and even a good nights sleep. Despite these potential drawbacks, Marines train everyday with the clear understanding that every training event supports the mission, the individual and the Marine Corps.

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MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984 - March 28, 2020

My first cruise was aboard the USS Casa Grande LSD-13 in the fall of 1965. As I recall, she had an open well deck and cranes. We sailed from Morehead City NC to Vieques PR, and pulled liberty in San Juan after the exercise. On the third day at sea I was approached by a really salty bosun who asked if I wanted to stand “mail buoy watch.” He explained that a “mail buoy” would be dropped ahead of us by a plane and that was how we got mail at sea. So I agreed and stood at the bow watching for the plane. As luck would have it, we began to get some rough seas and the 1MC called for all embarked Marines below deck. Well, being the hard charging Pfc that I was, I considered myself posted on duty so I stayed at the bow. Soon this Chief Bosun yelled for me to get off his deck, and I explained that I had been posted as “mail buoy watch.” He commenced to call me all sorts of fowl things, grabbed me by the stacking swivel and we went to see the 1st Sgt. I was offered to see the old man, or work for the Chief scrubbing the bilges for three days. So, I spent the next days in the most God forsaken, smelly, filthy place I could ever have imagined. Luckily, we arrived at Vieques for the landings, so I only had to do two days. But that was enough to cure me of listening to and believing sailors. I often wonder if that mail buoy was ever dropped? Semper Fi!!

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