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NETT Marines bridging the gap between the past and future of amphibious combat

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Marines wearing the full combat gear during the exercise Talisman Saber in 2007

At its core, any Marine Corps New Equipment Training Team is responsible for—as the name suggests—arming Marines with the knowledge and skills they need to operate and maintain new equipment to ensure Marines’ future success on the battlefield. When new equipment is fielded, the NETT provide the initial training to experienced legacy system operators and maintainers to help get them acquainted with the new system in the shortest time possible.

When the new system is the Amphibious Combat Vehicle—game-changing not only in the amphibious capabilities it provides to Marines, but also in that it’s replacing a nearly 50-year-old legacy system—the NETT are in a unique position to bridge the gap between the past and future of amphibious combat in the Corps. Currently, most new equipment training teams are comprised of civilian subject matter experts from Industry, the ACV NETT is comprised primarily of amphibious assault Marines who are able to apply their experience and expertise in operating and maintaining the legacy vehicle to operating and maintaining the new one.

“It’s pretty much 100 percent preparation for the next evolution,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Wheeler, lead operational instructor on the NETT, of his team’s role. “All of us here on the NETT have years of experience operating the legacy [Assault Amphibious Vehicle]. I think that our collective experience and influence is important, especially in informing the future of our community. That’s our number one job.”

Though the NETT falls under the Virginia-based Advanced Amphibious Assault program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems, the office responsible for acquiring and fielding the system, the team itself is housed at the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch at Camp Pendleton, Calif., maximizing the team’s ability to spend time on and become proficient with operating and maintaining the vehicle.

To aid Marines’ transition from the legacy to the new platform, the NETT faces the challenge of infusing old practices into new Standard Operating Procedures and Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for the ACV.

“During the operational assessment, we realized that some of the tactics we’re used to with the AAV don’t work with the ACV,” said Wheeler. “We’re taking into account our old doctrine with the AAV, and seeing how some of those tactics, TTPs and SOPs can translate to the ACV [to make the transition easier for Marines].”

On the vehicular maintenance side, NETT Marines also help design the maintenance course. Currently, the team is busy helping the program office prepare for a four-month logistics demonstration—a comprehensive event evaluating the maintainability and sustainability of the vehicle—scheduled for this fall.

“One of the ways we’re verifying the Technical Manual for the ACV is by having the maintenance team complete over 1,400 maintenance tasks using the TM as a guide,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Hanush, maintenance lead instructor for the ACV. “This will help us when preparing the maintenance course. Ultimately, we want to ensure that Marines are successful when the vehicle hits the fleet.”

While the NETT’s main role is training Marines on maintaining and operating the ACV, the team also licenses drivers and, as operators of the vehicle, are integral participants in the rigorous operational, logistical and evaluative vehicle tests initiated by PM AAA. Having experienced amphibious assault Marines on the NETT has been extremely beneficial to the program office, particularly during operational assessments and testing.

“The Marines have assisted us greatly with understanding how the amphibious community operates, especially on water,” said James Aurilio, Manpower, Personnel and Training lead for PM AAA. “Operating a land vehicle in water is a unique experience, and they brought that experience with them. There’s a lot about doing that that, those of us who don’t do it would never understand or wouldn’t think to ask [during testing]. They’ve been stellar and have helped us out a lot.”

The NETT will start training Marines from Delta Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, in January 2020. Delta Company will be the first amphibious assault crews to be trained on the new vehicle. Upon completion of training, the NETT will help guide the Delta Company Marines as they participate in tests assessing the effectiveness of the first set of low-rate initial production ACVs. PM AAA anticipates receiving the first set of low-rate production vehicles this summer.

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Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah

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ryan p shane fallujah bravery zero - 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).

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Recruiters get Special Ops boost with vehicle training

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special ops trailer - 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.

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