USS PELELIU, At Sea -- U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sy Poggemeyer knew how to get around an amphibious assault ship at the age of four.
“I remember going to my dad’s stateroom, thinking that it was really big. I jumped on his bed; he had the Nintendo [Entertainment System] set up, so there we were, playing the old Mario Bros. game with my dad,” said Poggemeyer, radio battalion detachment assistant officer-in-charge for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “[I also remember] going up onto the flight deck and getting to sit in the SH-60 [Seahawks]. Little memories but they’re so vivid.”
Poggemeyer is currently deployed on the same ship his stepfather, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Krieger, served on two decades prior. The USS Peleliu (LHA-5), dubbed “The Iron Nickel,” has had a long and proud service proving her motto “Pax per Potens”: Peace through Power.
“He got to see just about everything onboard,” said Krieger, the Iron Nickel’s surface store readiness and aviation supply officer from 1993 to 1995. “It is one of the military’s funny, small-world quirks that he has landed back at a place where I served twenty years ago.”
The Peleliu recently embarked Marines of the 31st MEU out of Okinawa, Japan, as the flagship of the 31st MEU/Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group for the annual Fall Patrol ‘14. Commissioned in 1980, the Peleliu has carried tens of thousands of Sailors and Marines in support of theater-security cooperation exercises and combat deployments.
Then-Lt. Krieger was able to participate in one of those deployments with the ship, moving with his family to their new home prior to shipping off.
“I reported aboard the Peleliu in April 1993; the ship was stationed at Long Beach but would be shifting its homeport to San Diego that summer,” said Krieger. “It was a particularly dynamic time for the ship with the imminent homeport move as well as being the beginning of the pre-deployment workup cycle.”
The ship deployed to the Pacific and Indian Oceans starting in January 1994 for six months. Prior to getting underway for that deployment, the four-year-old Poggemeyer first had a chance to enjoy time with his father, providing memories that would resurface 20 years later.
“I remember him going on the six-month WestPac deployments [and being gone] for a long time,” recalls Poggemeyer. “The Peleliu ties into our family history as a good, recognized name, so once I heard that we were getting on, I got excited.”
The Naval Services of the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy are defined by tradition and legacy, something the ‘old-salts’ appreciate through the ranks. The kin-like ties shared with fellow service members are further strengthened by family connections, and the sea-faring lineage is a common one from parent to child.
“I’m just nostalgic with the father-son legacy fulfillment feeling, and even though he is Navy and I am Marine, he was here eating in the same wardroom and serving on the very same ship,” said Poggemeyer. “Our family has lots of pictures and collected items that says ‘Pax per Potens’. Those two years on [the Peleliu] were a big part of his life. It’s been a really special thing, seeing the big ‘5’.”
Poggemeyer is on the ship’s final deployment. The Peleliu is set to decommission in the spring of 2015.
“I definitely feel lucky about being on this last float; the Peleliu is being decommissioned soon and it feels really cool being on it before it goes away. Not everyone gets to serve on the same ship as their dad,” added Poggemeyer.
The 31st MEU/Peleliu ARG recently participated in Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 in the Philippines as part of a regularly-scheduled Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.