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An Assault Amphibious Vehicle with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, patrols the coast after a simulated raid on Townshend Island, Queensland Australia, July 1, 2019. The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kyle P. Bunyi)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi

Wet ‘n Wild: The AAV platoon of the 31st MEU

9 Sep 2019 | Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Among the various capabilities of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team, the ability to storm the enemy’s shores by force is a crucial one. Marines are carried through crashing waves and enemy fire and delivered onto the beach by the BLT’s Assault Amphibious Vehicle platoon, the unit in charge of maintaining and operating assault amphibious vehicles.

“What makes an AAV Marine effective is their flexibility and ability to find creative solutions to unique problems. AAVs are put under a lot of strain and need mechanical maintenance regularly, however mission accomplishment is priority. Amphibious assault Marines always have to find a way to support the infantry, even in a crunch,” said 1st Lt. John Merten, an AAV officer with the BLT.

Before departing 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion, the Marines of the MEU’s AAV platoon trained rigorously to sharpen their skills. These exercises entailed practicing offensive and defensive maneuvers, and moving in pairs under suppressive fire. Leading up to these training exercises AAV Marines earned certifications for driving and operating in different terrain and learned how to conduct mechanized assaults. For some of the more experienced Marines all the training and long hours at work have become a familiar way of life.

“When you first join the unit, it [the amount of training] is a bit of a culture shock. Later there’s more of an understanding of what to expect. Now we know the gist of things and how our command works,” said Sgt. Graham Kennedy, an AAV crew chief, when asked about the rigorous training AAV units go through.

With a handful of Marines from the AAV platoon having been attached to the 31st MEU before, their expectations for Talisman Sabre 2019 have been optimistic.

“It’s another opportunity to test ourselves as an amphibious assault force and to work with other allied nations,” said Sgt. Celso Romero, an AAV crew chief.

Among other events, Talisman Sabre 2019 features a combined amphibious assault, with U.S. and Australian AAVs conducting a simulated mechanized raid of a hostile beach in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

With expectations high, the platoon’s confidence in their abilities and in their fellow Marines has never been higher, according to Cpl. Trevor Pritzl, an AAV crew chief. In preparation for the combined amphibious raid, the platoon’s NCOs have been constantly working late with their junior Marines, forging a certain unit pride while keeping the 31st MEU ready for the call. According to Pritzl, just as the long hours at work help maintain their AAVs, the rigor of the job also strengthens the unit cohesion that makes the AAV platoon so effective, and ready to execute at any time.

“We’ve been together since day one. The chemistry’s just there.”

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit