USS BOXER (LHD 4), PACIFIC OCEAN --
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 10, 2023) – Underway aboard the ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit gained an appreciation for their roots as an expeditionary force in readiness on a day normally spent reflecting on Marine Corps history and heritage.
Nov. 10, 2023 – the 248th Marine Corps birthday.
To Marines, it’s a sacred holiday. Some might argue it should be a national holiday, when all can celebrate the founding of the Corps in 1775.
However, there were no dress blues, nor a Marine Corps birthday ball held aboard the ships comprising the Boxer ARG – the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). On each ship, though, both Marines and Sailors alike took a pause from the busy training calendar to take part in their own ceremonies and to cut a traditional birthday cake, as is customary on the Corps’ birthday.
These celebrations, even in their modest form, were no small task for the Marines and Sailors.
The 15th MEU is currently embarked aboard the Boxer ARG for integrated training and routine operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet. On Nov. 10, the integrated training consisted of shore-to-ship movements embarking hundreds of ground combat element personnel and equipment from Battalion Landing Team 1/5 and Combat Logistics Battalion 15, and flight operations with aircraft from the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 (Reinforced) and Marines of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 225.
Aboard Boxer, the flagship of the ARG and Amphibious Squadron 5, hundreds of Marines and Sailors filled the mess deck for the birthday ceremony. A thundering applause and countless “ooh-rahs” followed showings of the commandant of the Marine Corps’ birthday message video and the 15th MEU’s birthday video – the latter showcasing the hard work of the 15th MEU Marine Air-Ground Task Force thus far since its composite in June of this year.
“By tradition, we are the soldiers of the sea, and will continue to fight and win in any clime or place and defend our way of life as Americans,” said Sgt. Maj. John Schlaud, sergeant major of the 15th MEU. “I am extremely grateful and honored to be a part of these two amazing teams that are made up of great patriots of the 15th MEU and PHIBRON 5.”
Col. Sean Dynan, commanding officer of the 15th MEU, cut the ceremonial birthday cake and handed the first piece to the oldest Marine present, Master Gunnery Sgt. Kelly Bullard, the 15th MEU communications chief. Bullard then passed the piece of cake to the youngest Marine, Lance Cpl. Bryan Luckey, a supply administration specialist assigned to the 15th MEU. The passing of the cake is a tradition symbolizing the passing of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to the next generation of Marines.
“This ceremony is the kind of thing that makes me want to stay in the Marine Corps,” said Luckey. “So that I can see not only what it was like to be in my position, for an older and more experienced Marine to pass tradition on to me, but for me to then pass it on to the next generation.”
The ceremony concluded with remarks from Dynan, invoking the two battalions of Marines purpose built by order of the Continental Congress in 1775 to serve aboard Navy ships.
“I’ll tell you who we are,” said Dynan. “We, United States Marines, are America’s Vanguard Force. We are a crisis response force afloat as the 15th MEU, integrated with PHIBRON 5. We are always prepared for crisis, we protect the ship, and we protect each other. And, most importantly … IF WE GET IN A FIGHT?”
“WIN!” shouted back the crowd instantly and in unison, booming across the mess decks.
Following the ceremony, the Marines and Sailors quickly returned to their rigorous training schedule, preparing for their coming missions of shore-to-ship movements, and fight operations with CH-53E Super Stallions, MV-22B Ospreys, and F-35B Lightning II to gain qualifications necessary for follow-on training and operations. As Marines know, the battle rhythm never stops.
With a gained appreciation for timeless Marine Corps traditions, the 15th MEU and Boxer ARG continued their integrated training to gain proficiency and certifications in their assigned mission essential tasks. “One team, one fight.” Those words are more than just a motto; they’re a goal and a summary of how the 15th MEU and Boxer ARG will serve together as an expeditionary crisis response force in just the way Marines and Sailors were meant to be.