It is a tough job and not everyone is lined up to work at their pace. Combat cargo Marines have one of the most demanding jobs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5). This is especially evident during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPUTEX).
Combat cargo’s mission is to support the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) logistical requirements across the three classes of ships featured in MEU operations.
“We are in charge of anything and everything that comes on and off the Bataan,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Novakoski, combat cargoman with the 26th MEU.
The platoon-sized element is divided into two sections. One controls the flight deck and hangar bay, while the other operates in the well deck of the vessel.
“The well deck Marines handle the landing craft air cushions, landing craft utilities and boat operations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brent Vines, logistics chief with the 26th MEU. “The hangar bay Marines support offloading and onloading of aircraft and personnel via the flight deck.”
Working in combat cargo is not only physically taxing, but also mentally exhausting.
“A challenge we face in combat cargo is the unknown,” said Vines. “There are many planning factors and moving parts for my crew.”
No matter what the operational tempo throws their way they will be ready.
“We are busy, but safety is still our number one priority during routine operations or any unique task sent our way,” said Vines.
Many Marines and Sailors fail to recognize the essential role combat cargo plays in the MEU and Amphibious Ready Group team.
“Combat cargo is a vital part of daily ship life,” said Novakoski. “If we didn’t have Marines to work the long hours in combat cargo, ship supplies would struggle and missions wouldn’t be completed.”
LHD-5 is currently undergoing COMPTUEX with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th MEU in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. COMPTUEX is a crucial part of the pre-deployment process which helps Marines and Sailors hone their specialities and come together as a fully cohesive unit when abroad.