The cornerstone of how the United States Marine Corps trains and fights is based around amphibious warfare. For AAV (Assault Amphibious Vehicle) crewmen or Amtrackers, as they are often identified, the role is critical and provides immensely to the United States Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At Assault Amphibious Vehicle the curriculum is sharpened on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewman, which involves learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an Assault Amphibious Vehicle.
AAV crewmen training is 55 days long. In the first phase of the training, Marines are instructed how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the training, Marines learn how the Assault Amphibious Vehicle compliments non-motorized infantry forces and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
Assault Amphibious Vehicles transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with firepower and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah
Between November 7 and 9, 2004, a remarkable thing happened in Fallujah: It rained. Throughout the preceding summer, while our rifle platoon waged a counter-insurgency in Haditha, Hit, and other Anbari backwaters, it never rained. Within the platoon we had a pool—ten bucks got you in—try your luck and pick the first day of rain. When the dust finally turned to mud all 46 of us were staged just outside the city, hunkered down in slit trenches, waiting for the assault to begin.
I don’t remember anybody collecting on the pool.
All it takes is the sight of someone sprinting along a wet crosswalk and I’m back in Fallujah and back to one street in particular: Highway Ten. Veterans of the battle each have their story of crossing Highway Ten’s expansive four lanes covered by machinegun fire, with insurgents dug into the buildings on the far side, defending this, their main line of resistance. The story of Gunnery Sergeant Ryan Shane, a Marine from my infantry battalion, has always remained close. On November 9, his rifle platoon perched on a rooftop, covering another platoon that rushed the crossing’s gauntlet. Within minutes, a slug ripped through the leg of Sergeant Lonny Wells, felling him in the open. He lay face down, blood pooling around his waist, moving just a little. Leaving his rifle behind so it wouldn’t slow him, Ryan went after Lonny.
A Marine combat cameraman captured the scene in four photographs. In the first, Ryan stands in the wet street, bent over Lonny. His 220-pound frame tugs the drag strap on Lonny’s body armor. In the second, another Marine runs to Ryan’s side, trying to help. Clumsily, the second Marine bends over Lonny while Ryan keeps pulling. The next frame was taken just as a bullet tears into Ryan’s lower back, scrambling his stomach. He’s on his heels, falling. The other Marine watches in a half sprint, heading for cover. The final frame is Ryan and Lonny, both laying face down on the street in the rain.
Lonny is dead. Ryan will survive.
The photos ran in Leatherneck Magazine—the magazine of the Marines—a month later under a simple headline: “Uncommon Valor.”
Nearly two years later, during the Al-Anbar Awakening, 50 veterans of the Fallujah Battle gathered in an auditorium in Camp Lejeune. Ryan Shane would be decorated for his actions. Since Lonny died, Ryan’s 220 pounds had shrunk to 150. After countless surgeries, he’d been medically discharged from the Corps. The toll his stomach wound had taken on his body could be seen in his atrophied frame, but it was the forced separation from the Corps he loved which left the deeper wound. You could see that in his eyes.
I sat in my uniform, a few rows back. We came to attention as the adjutant read the citation for Ryan’s Bronze Star. Our Commanding General pinned it on his chest, and ceded the floor to Ryan. He thanked his family for their care during his slow recovery. He thanked the Marines who ran to his rescue that day. Then his voice thickened. He held his stare upwards, holding it on the auditorium lights, as if speaking to a place outside that room.
“I’m finding it really hard,” he said, “to accept that my greatest achievement as a Marine, this medal, also comes from my greatest failure. I didn’t save Lonny that day.”
Afterwards, one by one, we left our seats and shook Ryan’s hand. Many of us went on to serve more deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. A battle as big as Fallujah never came along again, though there were many others like it.
In valleys, hamlets, and cities too countless to number, Ryan Shane’s words held true. Our greatest achievements were bound to our greatest failures. Just as in Fallujah, we wound up destroying many places in order to save them. Looking back through the years, this final point seems undeniable to me.
It’s old as war.
In recent months, with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham in Anbar Province, or the increased influence of the Iranian Government in Iraq’s internal affairs, quantifying whether our efforts in that country were worthy of our sacrifice seems an increasingly complex and unknowable arithmetic. Each of us has tallied the personal cost and come to a solution. As memories cloud, and in some cases burn, I imagine our solutions will change.
In hindsight, the only thing I know with complete clarity about Fallujah, the Iraq War, any war, is that achievement always couples with failure. Like a lot of guys, I learned that in the rain.
Memorial day essay by Elliot Ackerman (The News Republic).
Recruiters get Special Ops boost with vehicle training
Twenty-eight specially-wrapped trucks and trailers featuring Air Force Special Operations decals were delivered to recruiters of the 330th Recruiting Squadron at Scott Air Force Base recently.
These trucks and trailers have spray paint-style camouflage and feature several Battlefield Airmen, which will be used by special warfare recruiters around the country to increase awareness about career fields within Special Operations.
Many people may not know there are combat controllers and pararescuemen or Battlefield Airmen who perform countless rescue missions.
Because of this, it’s important to find other ways to spread the impact of their mission, said Master Sgt. Sean Christian, Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service NCO in charge of event marketing.
“These trucks and trailers will be the first exposure a lot of people have to Special Operations,” Christian said. “The trailers that you see here are miniature activation trailers, and they’re used at events like air shows or fitness competitions.”
The trailers will hold about 13,000 pounds of equipment, including a TV, canopy, pull-up bar, jerry cans, and more. They will enable recruiters to fully engage with potential recruits at events.
To help the recruiters transport the trailers and use the trucks safely, members of the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron ground transportation element hosted a unique training opportunity for them.
During the training, LRS Airmen familiarized recruiters with how to attach and remove the trailer, as well as how to maneuver and park the vehicle correctly.
“Obviously, this is a great opportunity for my ground transportation Airmen,” said Master Sgt. Todd Martin, 375th LRS ground transportation section chief. “Sure, it’s simple training with trucks and trailers, but they get to see the end result and the impact they’re making Air Force-wide.”
Christian added that these trucks are another step in closing the bridge between Special Operations and recruiting, ensuring the best and most qualified recruits are being put into the Special Operations pipeline.