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Marines Report From The Field

AAVs take the high, low, wet road

Story by Lance Cpl. Willard J. Lathrop

Submitted by: 31st MEU

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (Oct. 6, 2004) -- The Amphibious Assault Vehicle platoon, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, has been gearing up for action in the scorching sands of Kuwait for almost a month.

The Marines of the AAV platoon have been participating in vehicle and personnel readiness training since mid September, according to Sgt. Patrick Scanlon, vehicle commander, AAV platoon.

The AAVs “splashed” into the Northern Arabian Gulf, Sep. 11, from the USS Harper’s Ferry and drove straight onto the Kuwaiti beach, where they were loaded onto flatbed trucks and transported to Camp Buehring at Udairi Range.

The AAV platoon is supporting the MEU by providing troop transport, ambulance capabilities, fire support and amphibious operations.

Amphibs, as the AAVs are called, can travel in water for up to eight hours and are capable of plowing through rough seas at a speed of eight knots, Pfc. Mathew Sauchinitz, a Sarasota, Fla. native and AAV driver, said.

The vehicle crews off-loaded their vehicles and commenced inspection and routine maintenance in order to prepare them for training in the desert.

Unfortunately, a lot of the repair parts were unable to make it off of the ship in the first swim, so some of the vehicles were not fully functional until we could get the parts, Cpl. Jonathan Nentl, AAV crew chief, said.

The AAVs have since taken part in several training evolutions here, to include live-fire ranges, tactical vehicle movement, Mobile Operations in Urban Terrain, immediate action drills and convoy security.

“It’s always a fun time driving around the desert and getting to shoot,” Nentl, a 21-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa said.

There are three sections into which the AAVs are divided, which are additionally supported by a recovery vehicle and communications vehicle where battlefield control is accomplished by a variety of data and radio equipment.

In order to get the amphibs into better battle condition, all of the vehicles received up-armor to reinforce the already existing protection.

“The add-on armor we have now will actually deflect rocket-propelled grenades,” Lance Cpl. Brandon Didde said, crew chief from Kansas City, Mo. “With the extra armor, this green monster weighs approximately 27 tons.”

Some other interesting characteristics of the AAVs are its ability to span an eight-foot wide trench and climb a three-foot wall. It can also climb a 60-degree slope and travel parallel along a 40-degree slope using its two independently driven tracks, each composed of 85, 35-pound, track blocks.

But the true value in having AAVs in “the fight” is that they can travel 300 miles over land on one tank of gas with a load of up to 21 combat-ready troops to their objective, according to Nentl. The vehicles can remain on station after transporting troops and deliver direct fire support for the ground units with their MK-19, 40mm, automatic grenade launcher and M2, .50-caliber, heavy machine gun.

“There’s not much that can stop us out here,” Nentl said. “ When we were coming into Baghdad the first time, the Iraqis blew up a bridge thinking that would stop us, but we just drove straight into the river and came across. When they (Iraqis) saw that we were still coming, they dropped their weapons and started running…they didn’t know we could come across like that.”

The AAV platoon’s home station is Camp Pendleton, Calif., and is currently deployed with the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU in Kuwait for acclimatization and sustainment training. The MEU is operating in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of the Global War on Terrorism.