KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait, (September 15, 2006) --
Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently hit an important milestone in their deployment while completing a crucial segment of their deployment.
While ashore in Kuwait, the Marines worked non-stop while completing the mandatory wash down of all vehicles and equipment before embarking back to the United States.
With over 250 pieces of equipment, vehicles and tents that needed to be cleaned, the Marines worked round-the-clock to ensure the mission success, explained Capt. Jose Falche, the embarkation officer for the 15th MEU.
Due to the different mission scenarios requiring the 15th MEU to operate in foreign countries, the unit must abide by certain customs rules and regulations prior to their return to the Continental United States, related Falche. This meant all “pinchable" dirt, foreign pests or parasites must be removed from the equipment before it can be re-embarked aboard ships for transport back to the US.
We basically ensure all of the 15th MEU’s equipment meets [US Central Command’s] standards for both agriculture and customs prior to our return to the [Continental United States],” said Falche, a Chicago, Ill native.
With so much to do and little time to do it in, the Marines were able to complete all work in the five days allotted to the wash down, explained Falche. This was no small task considering all vehicles and equipment had to be offloaded from two different ships, USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) and brought ashore via landing craft utility (LCU) and landing craft air cushion (LCAC).
“We came ashore manned to sustain 24 hour operation provided at Kuwaiti Naval Base. That allowed us to work two vessels simultaneously, throughput the equipment and [get it ready] for the immediate re-embarkation aboard naval shipping,” Falche explained.
“We had four to five days to complete ship to shore movement. We are able to complete Pearl Harbor in four days—two for offload and two for onload—and complete Peleliu in a five day period,” he said.
Admitting to only getting about three hours of sleep a night for himself, Falche explained there were many additional factors involved with the wash down other than lack of sleep. Kuwait is an arid desert nation with extreme temperature, but along its coastline oppressive humidity is abundant making any project more difficult. Coupled with the long hours, the Marines had their work cut out for them, Falche related.
“There are numerous factors that contribute to the difficulty. The job itself is difficult coupled with the humidity at [Kuwaiti Naval Base], but the Marines worked hard. We were successful based on their efforts and dedication to thoroughness,” said Falche.
For Cpl. Gilbert Sanchez, 15th MEU operations section, the process of getting the equipment could be quite a painstaking experience. With all of the equipment being used in varying environments and essentially being just plain dirty, much of it had to be washed numerous times over to meet customs and agricultural regulations.
“We had to spray and scrub and get as much dirt off as we could possibly get. It wasn’t our say when it was done and many of the tents we had to wash three and four times over,” said Sanchez, a Dallas, Texas, native.
With the daunting task of cleaning and prepping everything for re-embarkation aboard the ships, the Marines were motivated by the idea that once this job was complete, barring any catastrophic events requiring Marine intervention—the 15th MEU would soon be on its way home, said Sanchez.
“[We were] very motivated. It was kind of tough on us because the timeline got crunched. It actually motivated us to get the job done quickly simply for the mere fact of getting our gear back aboard ship so we can begin the process of getting back home,” Sanchez said.
The Camp Pendleton, Calif., based 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is a forward deployed force in readiness capable of conducting numerous combat, humanitarian and amphibious operations.