ABOARD USS PELELIU --
The Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who have called USS Peleliu home for the last six months, welcomed aboard family and friends aboard on as part of Tiger Cruise 2008 for the final week of deployment.
“Tiger Cruise” is a program which allows Marines and Sailors to show what it feels like to be deployed aboard a U.S. Navy ship.
For some prior service members, the experience of being underway is a new one. Mr. Kenneth John, an eight-year Air Force veteran, said he is surprised by the relationship between Marines and Sailors aboard USS Peleliu.
“My experience in the military gave me the impression that the Marines and the Navy didn’t get along too well,” said Mr. John. “[Tiger Cruise] has pretty much changed that.”
Tiger Cruise has also helped Mr. John better understand what Marines do every day while on deployment.
“I really didn’t know what to look forward to. Almost everything they have done has helped me understand better,” Mr. John said. “[My son] has come home and tried to explain, but it’s nothing like witnessing it first hand. That has been the best thing for me.”
Mr. John’s son, Sgt. Barry L. Tiner, a CH-46E Sea Knight Observer with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-165, knew of Tiger Cruise from a previous deployment. Bringing his father along was an easy choice given Mr. John’s prior military service, Tiner said.
“I already had dad in mind. It would be a good time to visit with him, spend some time with him and let him see what we do,” said Tiner. “He was in the military, but [he served] in the Air Force, so we are showing him how the Marines do business.”
Tiner, a native of Phoenix, said it was important for his father to see how Marines operate while underway.
“[The Tigers] get to see what we do on a daily basis. Right now it’s the end of the deployment, so it’s kind of dying down a little and we’re not at normal mission tempo, but it gives Tigers a little taste of how we work,” Tiner said.
Separation from friends and family is a given for many Marines and Sailors. With deployments on ship lasting six-months or longer, the time during Tiger Cruise to reconnect with loved-ones is very important, according to George M. Martinez, Jr., a Mechanical Designer from Fremont, Calif. Tiger Cruise gives families a chance to make-up for lost time, he said.
“I’ve always been close with my son,” Martinez said. “You get older and you can’t spend as much time together and that’s the biggest thing for me is to be able to spend time with him.”
Tiger Cruise also lets family and friends relate better to their Marine or Sailor, Mr. Martinez continued.
“It shows me the conditions he lives in and what he does daily. It’s kind of exciting being on a Navy ship. I’ve been on a cruise, but it’s nothing like this, of course,” Mr. Martinez said.
Sgt. George M. Martinez III, a Circuit Board Operator with the Command Element, 15th MEU, hopes the Tigers will better understand what their Marine does and how they live while underway.
“I think it gives them the whole perspective,” said Sgt. Martinez, a native of Tracy, Calif.
Tiger Cruise also gives friends and family a better understanding of life aboard ship other than the idea most civilians have about deployment, Sgt. Martinez continued.
“I think their first impression is that it’s not as dressed up as Hollywood makes it. One thing my dad said is that it is a ship built for a purpose, it’s like a machine,” said Sgt. Martinez. “It’s probably enjoyable [for the Tigers] being on a big warship and to be around Marines and Sailors. You can’t really pay for an experience like this.”
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 operations, such as Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, Humanitarian Assistance Operations and a wide range of amphibious missions. The 15th MEU is currently deployed aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), USS Dubuque (LPD-8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) and is on the final leg of deployment.