TARAWA --Back in Action

by JO2 Matthew Hess


USS TARAWA (LHA 1) -- The TARAWA was steaming toward its home port in San Diego after finishing a 10-month complex overhaul period in Bremerton, Wash. Now, the waiting is over and the TARAWA crew is doing what it does best -- putting Marines on the beach.

After nearly a year of replacing decks, installing new equipment and renovating spaces, the crew of the TARAWA participated in this year's amphibious operations training exercise. The exercise kicked off when 1,358 Marine reservists from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit came aboard TARAWA to conduct an amphibious assault on Camp Pendleton's Red Beach.

According to Master Sgt. Brian Boedigheimer from the ship's combat cargo department, the Navy and Marine Corps team deployed 140 vehicles and more than 1,000 Marines ashore in a 10-hour period, making the operation a complete success. "Everything was outstanding," he said. "We actually had to slow down the helicopters because we had people going out so fast."

TARAWA's commanding officer said he was impressed with the crew's performance. "Overall, things have been going quite smoothly," said Capt. Garry Hall. "In seven operation days the (air department) has got themselves up to running eight spots for helo launches, and the deck department is loading and launching (landing craft) like they've been doing it all along."

Seaman Deon Bailey, who works with the ship's deck department, said he's happy to be out of overhaul and working in his rate. "It gives us an opportunity to actually see what we do in our jobs as far as driving the ship, heaving lines and mooring the landing craft in the ship's well."

"We were doing a lot of yardwork before. Now, I feel like I have a job and I'm doing something," he added.

Hall said exercises like this one are essential to gauging readiness. "This is a perfect pre-test. From this pre-test, we can determine our training cycle and what we need to accomplish in the next few months."

Quartermaster 1st class Robert Ticer, part of the ship's navigation division, said he's happy to be "back in the saddle" and helping TARAWA steer the right course. "I'm laying out tracks, setting up the routes for where the ship's going, choosing stars, sunlines -- all the good stuff."