Friday, July 31, 2009

Campbell selected for MCAA Air Crewman of the year

Story and Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

Staff Sgt. Bryan Campbell, UH-1Y weapons and tactics crew chief instructor, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was selected for the Marine Corps Aviation Association Air Crewman of the Year award, July 28.
This award is given to those who indicate exceptional leadership and dedication to mission accomplishment.
Campbell, known by his peers as “Soup,” was awarded for his involvement in successfully integrating the new UH-1Y helicopter into the 13th MEU and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group during the “Venom’s” first operational deployment. As the H-1 flight-line lead, he earned 24 new maintenance qualifications which enhanced the department’s knowledge base and contributed to more than 80 percent readiness rate for its helicopters. Campbell also developed new tactics and procedures for a sea-based UH-1Y deployment and increased the combat effectiveness by training and evaluating 10 UH-1Y enlisted air crew, resulting in 95 air crew designations.
“He is a motivator and an example to his Marines and those around him,” said Maj. Mark “Biter” Angersbach, a UH-1Y pilot with HMM-163.
Angersbach also said Campbell is a Marine that naturally inspires and that other Marines want to be like him.
“Bringing this helicopter to the fleet is a big step in my community,” said Campbell, from Melbourne, Ark. “This is a very prestigious award that I am pleased to have won. I have to give credit to all the crew chiefs that took time to study for the flights, prepare the aircraft and be willing to learn.”
Angersbach said Campbell is an excellent crew chief instructor and that he combines a firm teaching style with patience and understanding.
“Without a question, he is one of the most capable staff noncommissioned officers I have worked with,” said Angersbach.
Campbell is currently on his way home from a seven month deployment in which he successfully conducted counter-piracy operations, straits transit security and sustainment training afloat and ashore.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

13th MEU Marines and sailors come home after seven month deployment

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., (July 29, 2009) – The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is scheduled to return to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 31, after completing a seven month deployment in the Western Pacific and Middle East regions.

During this deployment, the 13th MEU/Boxer Amphibious Ready Group served as the theater reserve in the Central Command area of operations, prepared to rapidly execute a variety of missions from humanitarian assistance to decisive combat operations.

While deployed, the 13th MEU conducted five Theater Security Cooperation exercises in different countries, countless hours of sustainment training afloat and ashore and participated in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Africa.

A highlight of the MEU’s deployment occurred when USS Boxer (LHD-4) became the flagship for Combined Task Force 151 in support of counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. For approximately three months, 13th MEU elements assisted in planning and executing a multitude of counter-piracy operations, including the hostage situation with Captain Richard Phillips and the Motor Vessel Maersk Alabama.

In total, the MEU successfully operated in over 13 different countries across the Pacific, Central and Africa Commands.

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is comprised of a Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), and Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (BOXARG) is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 5, USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 Detachment 3, Naval Beach Group 1, Assault Craft Unit 5, Assault Craft Unit 1, Beach Master Unit 1 and Fleet Surgical Team 5.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Serving servicemen in the great outdoors

Story by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

Photos courtesy of American Valor Outdoors

Military men and women serve all over the world when deployed. But what do they do when they come home?

One Marine who dedicates his time to a unique program called “American Valor Outdoors,” which was formed in an effort to honor all of America’s services members and their many sacrifices, is Staff Sgt. Bradley M. Luke. (photo above)

Currently, Luke is on his way home from a seven-month deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4), serving as the communications chief for Bravo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1/1.
American Valor Outdoors provides service members a variety of all expense paid activities including hunting, fishing, shooting and even photography, to name a few.

“To date, we have taken military members from all branches of service—children who have lost a parent in the current conflicts, law enforcement personnel, fire fighters and numerous injured service members—who cherish the time away and look forward to some natural rehabilitation,” explained Derome West, a Del Rio, Texas native, president and founder of American Valor Outdoors.

Remembering back, Luke says he got started in AVO through a close friend.

“I was taken on a hunt for turkeys in Clay County, Texas,” said Luke, from Stockton, Ill. “It was actually a tournament with ten different TV shows competing; our team took first and second place. To say it was awesome would not do it justice.”

Since that event, Luke has been involved with AVO for about three years. He serves as a Marine liaison, helping put events together.

Luke says they will eventually start a TV show as all of the events have already been taped in high-quality video for the participants.
“The only thing that really sets us back is our work schedules and funding. We are non-profit and all of the money comes from banquets and fundraisers. Individual donations help some too,” said Luke.

West says the entire AVO staff works on a volunteer basis.

“It is the volunteer spirit and the caliber of volunteers we have that makes what we do a success,” said West.

“The entire staff knows first hand what sacrifice is,” said West. “We have all served our country in both peace and war. With our been-there-done-that experiences, we have a unique insight into the warrior spirit which, in turn, better enables us to provide a quality experience for our guests.”

West praises Luke’s commitment to this program.

“Staff Sgt. Luke has been instrumental in the success of (AVO). He has taken this challenge in true Marine fashion, met it head on with uncompromising standards and delivered the very best results,” said West. “His service to (AVO) reflects great credit upon himself and the entire Marine Corps.”

Luke says he feels his involvement shows that even as an active duty service member, he doesn’t take his brothers and sisters in the service lightly. He said he is willing to give his time and resources up to show his appreciation for their service.

“[My hunting trip] was one of the most memorable times I have ever had,” said Luke. “I want others to have the same experience I did. I have never had the honor of working with such a great group of guys except for the warriors I serve with.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray victims

Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

Elements of the 13th MEU participated in Oleoresin Capsicum spray training on the flight deck of USS Boxer (LHD 4) July 15. As Marines were sprayed, they performed various nonlethal techniques at four different stations. Afterwards, they began the decontamination process with the help of water and wind. OC spray training is part of annual qualifications Marines must complete if required in their job field.

Monday, July 13, 2009

ACE completes wash down before returning home

Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

USS Boxer, At sea— 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Aviation Combat Element is conducting an agricultural wash down aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) July 11-14 before entering the United States.

While USS Boxer and the MEU conducted their wash down in the Middle East after their last land-based exercise, the ACE continued flight operations.

Now, on the transit home, Marines with the ACE, or Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), spend the daylight hours on the flight deck washing their aircraft.

“The purpose is to get all the foreign dirt off the aircraft before we return to the United States,” said Cpl. Ryan Keene, a Chicago native and UH-1Y Huey helicopter mechanic, HMM-163 (Rein.), 13th MEU.

Lieutenant Col. Brett M. Bartholomaus, HMM-163 (Rein.) commanding officer and Clarion, Iowa native, says that Marines are required to clean the outside of the aircraft and remove all panels. This gives a more detailed cleaning to the engine, transmission and underneath the floorboards to ensure no dirt remains from previous operations.

“Some Marines have never done this before, so it is a good learning experience for them,” said Bartholomaus. “It is also motivating for the Marines because they know that as soon as we get done we will hit Hawaii and then we’re home.”

The wash down is not fun, but having everyone up on the flight deck makes the days go by faster, says Keene.

The 13th MEU/Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are in the last stages of their seven-month deployment and are journeying through the Pacific Ocean in route home.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Photos of the week from the Comstock

Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

A CH-53E Sea Stallion delivers supplies to service members aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45). Among these supplies were cleaning materials to help battle the spread of an "influenza-like-illness," which has been a unwelcome guest across the fleet.

The well-deck of USS Comstock is flooded to allow a Landing Craft Utility boat to enter the stern of the ship. This craft was sent out originally to conduct maintenance on the deck tiles on the ship.

Marines aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45), smile for a photo.

Bad weather made for a pleasant display of lights in the evening sky during USS Comstock's transit near the Philippines Islands.

Bad weather made for a pleasant display of lights in the evening sky during USS Comstock's transit near the Philippine Islands.

Marines and Sailors aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45), look out across the open seas as USS Boxer (LHD 4), makes her way through the Philippine Islands as the sun sets.

Sergeant Sergio Mijares, maintenance chief with Maintenance Detachment, CLB-13, moves wooden pallets aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45), during a replenishment at sea.

Marines with Combat Cargo aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45), organize rope during a replenishment at sea.

1st Lt. Matthew D. Riggs, engineering officer with CLB-13, speaks to Marines during a Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team exercise aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45). Riggs was the HAST officer in charge for this evolution.

Lance Cpl. Scott T. McLaughtin, from Palmdale, Calif., a military policemen with CLB-13, straps down an axe to the back of a humvee while making final preparations to their vehicles during the long journey home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tiger Cruise Update: from the 13th MEU Commanding Officer

Dear Families and Friends of the 13th MEU,

As many of you may know, a mild influenza virus has affected a number of Marines and sailors aboard USS Boxer and USS Comstock. The USS New Orleans has yet to report any cases, but we expect they will as well. The specific strain of flu is unknown, but it is contagious and generally characterized as “influenza-like-illness.” This means we are required to quarantine affected personnel and take other prudent measures to contain the virus and prevent a more widespread outbreak. At this time, affected Marines and sailors are recovering just fine under the care and supervision of our superior Navy medical team and every precaution is being taken to keep unaffected personnel in continued good health.

Due to the risk of spreading illness to our family and friends aboard ship, and thereby further complicating our efforts to contain this virus and get everyone healthy prior to our return to San Diego, I have made the decision to cancel the Tiger Cruise for all 13th MEU personnel across all three of our ships. The safety and health of our Marines and their families is our primary concern. I share your disappointment and regret you and your Marine will miss this experience.

We understand you have likely already purchased airfare to Hawaii and perhaps made other travel and lodging arrangements. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps cannot reimburse any costs. We will, however, provide a letter outlining the circumstances surrounding the cancellation for your use in negotiating refunds with your air carrier or other parties.

Your support to the 13th MEU over the past year has been inspiring. Your Marines have performed tremendously throughout the last seven months on deployment and we are all looking forward to the reunion at our home stations. I hope to see all of you at our return home celebration.

Commanding Officer
13th MEU

For any questions, please contact your sponsor, unit Tiger Cruise Representative, or Family Readiness Officer. We will continue to post updates and answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to the 13th MEU Blogsite.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Repairman works into family’s legacy

Story and Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina
Tucked away on the deck of USS Comstock (LSD 45), working out of a storage container, is a Marine who repairs communication resources and electronics.
For Cpl. Brenton F. Sangster, a personal computer/telephone repairman assigned to Maintenance Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the love of gadgetry is in his heart, but the love of the Marine Corps is in his blood.
Sangster is the fourth generation to become a Marine in his family.
“Since I was a kid I always knew I wanted to become a Marine like my old man,” said Sangster.

“I am proud to carry on that tradition.”
Working with electronics is something Sangster takes great interest in.“I really like to take electronics apart then put them back together,” said Sangster. “The Marine Corps has taught me to put them back together properly so they work.”

Sangster said the Marine Corps is based on communication and if gear needs to be fixed, his shop will do their part in making sure it works properly.
“Our job is important because of the various communication components that we can fix,” said Sangster, from Mission Viejo, Calif. “If a piece of equipment goes down that is used for communicating, the mission can be jeopardized.”
Learning the proper way to handle sensitive pieces of equipment to protect them from shorting out is also important said Sangster.
“Sometimes all it takes is just a little of static electricity from the body to short out a component,” said Sangster.

When Sangster is not working on a computer or any other piece of equipment, he likes to help his fellow Marines with their own electronics.

“I like to help out other Marines here on ship if they have a broken iPod or laptop, we will take parts from other broken electronics and try to replace them,” said Sangster. “‘One broke is better than two broke’ we say around here.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Flight deck aerobics

Story and photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

USS COMSTOCK, at sea (June 24, 2009) – The occasional sound of music blares from the flight deck of USS Comstock (LSD 45). A group of Marines step awkwardly in unison and seem to be enjoying themselves, making the most of their workout.

The leader of this up-beat aerobics class—Staff Sgt. Colleen Wilcox, radio chief, Communications Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Wilcox, from Waterford, Mich., said she began participating in aerobics when she joined the Marine Corps. Through her dedication, she became a certified instructor through Aerobics Fitness Association of America (AFAA). She can officially teach both Marines and sailors.

“Before we came on deployment I taught on base with just my Marines at the gym,” said Wilcox.

“My class is an hour long,” she said. “I like to start out with some warm-ups, then some resistance workouts. We do upper body one day and lower body the next.”

Wilcox says it’s not always easy to find a spot on ship to have class. With all the different moving parts aboard the Comstock, space can be limited.

In addition to space constraints, it can also be a challenge to get diverse participants.

“As much as the male Marines might think they don’t like it and feel it’s more for women, I think it is great for everyone because it works their bodies out in different ways than they would normally do it,” said Wilcox.

Corporal Sarah L. Griffin, also with Communications Detachment, CLB-13, which is part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has been attending classes throughout the deployment.

“I always volunteer to do [the class],” said Griffin, a native of San Clemente, Calif. “The bigger the class the more fun it is.”

When Wilcox teaches an aerobics class, she always takes a couple of Marines from her shop to change it up.

Griffin says her favorite part of the class is watching everyone try really hard to get the moves down.

“You get to see how uncoordinated people are sometimes,” said Griffin. She continued by saying,

“I like to change up my workouts, especially here on ship. I think everyone should try it at least once, it’s a lot of fun.”

13th MEU celebrates Independence Day at sea

Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly
Photos by Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly,
Lance Cpl. Jesse D. Leger and Lance Cpl. Karl J. Launius

USS BOXER, near the Philippines (July 4, 2009)—For many, Independence Day means family, friends and perhaps a cookout. These long standing traditions proved to exist this day for the service members aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) minus one key factor—family.
This rang true when speaking of a conjugal family in the classic since; however, service members often refer to their brothers in arms as their expanded family and were able to celebrate with one another in the form of a steel beach picnic (a picnic on the flight deck of the ship) this July Fourth.
“This is a very unique Fourth of July with it coming towards the end of our deployment,” said Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit sergeant major and Bronx, N.Y. native. “This is a great time to spend with my extended family,” referring to his fellow Marines and sailors.
It was also a day where Marines, sailors and civilians aboard could kick back, take in the sights of the Philippine Islands and listen to jams pumped out by U.S. Navy Electricians Mate 1st Class Robert Plaza, a Fullerton, Calif. native, aka, DJ Rist.
“It’s a good opportunity to get people to relax and out of their daily routine,” said Staff Sgt. Versayn G. Reynaga, the motor transportation chief for Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and resident of Glenns Ferry, Idaho. “It was nice to enjoy the barbeque and get some sun.”
Staff Sgt. Derrick M. Rasmussen, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the 13th MEU’s Radio Battalion detachment, agreed by saying there’s nothing better than a little fresh air, sunshine and a barbecue.

“The food was good,” said Lance Cpl. Dustin C. Davis, infantryman with headquarters platoon, Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th MEU and Houston native. “It was a good change of pace.”

Davis continued by saying he spent the last few Fourth of July holidays at home with friends and family, but was happy to be able to spend time with his friends at the steel beach picnic.

The day concluded with the cutting of the nation's birthday cake. Although for some it was a good Fourth of July amongst friends, it is safe to say the Marines and sailors aboard USS Boxer long for the next holiday they can spend with their loved ones at home.
The 13th MEU/Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are in the sixth of their seven-month deployment and are journeying through the Pacific Ocean in route home.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Marines and sailors from USS Comstock hold Steel Beach Picnic

Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

Service members aboard USS Comstock (LSD-45) enjoy a relaxing day during a steel beach function, June 21. This was a change of pace from the normal working day and enabled them to have a nice social gathering. Marines and sailors enjoyed cool sodas and a barbeque.

Tiger Cruise FAQ **UPDATE**

How do I know if my Tiger Cruise Package was received? How do I confirm my registration?
Contact your sponsor or Unit Tiger Cruise Rep.

Who is my Unit Tiger Cruise Rep?

For USS Boxer:

- Command Element: Sgt Carter Hilton =

- HMM-163 (REIN): Capt Jeremy Dohoney =

- CLB-13: LT Angela Roldan-Whitaker =

- BLT 1/1: Staff Sergeant Jon Knight =

For USS Comstock:

For USS New Orleans:

Is the Medical Screening complete?
Yes. The Medical Officers have reviewed all Medical Questionnaires, and only a few Tigers were denied participation. The Medical staff’s decision to deny participation is never easy, but safety and availability of care is the primary concern. Everyone denied participation has already been contacted in person.

If I was medically unqualified for the Tiger Cruise, may I still participate in the Mini-Tiger Cruise on 31 July to 1 August?
In most cases, yes! Please contact your sponsor to enroll.

When must I embark on USS Boxer/Comstock/New Orleans in Hawaii?
23 July. No earlier; no later. Registration aboard ship is tentatively scheduled between 1000 (10:00 AM) and 2100 (9:00 PM) on 23 July. Please coordinate any late arrivals in advance with your sponsor. Tigers must spend the night on-ship on 23 July. Unfortunately, no boarding will be permitted on 24 July.

What if I arrive to Hawaii before 23 July, may I embark early?
Unfortunately, no.

Should I arrive to Hawaii before 23 July, will my Marine or Sailor be permitted to stay at my hotel with me?
The intent is to maximize the opportunity for you and your sponsor to spend time together in Hawaii. Please coordinate directly with your sponsor for details and his/her duty schedule.

I understand that Marines operate in buddy teams while participating in off-ship “liberty”. As a spouse, parent, friend, or family member, must my Marine/Sailor still be paired up with another Marine/Sailor on liberty? Or can I be my Marine or Sailor's liberty “buddy”?
The intent is to permit Marines to participate in liberty with their family and friends without a fellow Marine. Subject to approval from your Marine’s leadership.

Once in Hawaii, how do I find the ship? What do I do?
Most importantly, maintain continuous contact with your sponsor. They will be able to provide the most up-to-date information on ship schedules, pier assignments, and the registration process. The USS Boxer/Comstock/New Orleans will be docked at Pearl Harbor. Transportation plans to ship and base access at Pearl Harbor for Tigers are still being coordinated. Please review this FAQ regularly to check for updates.

Will transportation be available upon off-load of USS Boxer/Comstock/New Orleans at Camp Pendleton on 31 July?
Tentatively, yes. The transportation plan is still being coordinated for Camp Pendleton, Miramar, and Yuma, AZ. Please review this FAQ regularly to check for updates.