ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- Exercise Bold Alligator 2012 is in full swing and Sailors from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 are playing a vital role in getting Marines and their equipment where they need to be.
Bold Alligator is the largest amphibious exercise in 10 years and includes elements from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, various other naval units, ships and allied nations. ACU 4 is one of the primary means of transporting these units and their assets from sea to land.
"Our mission is over the horizon, ship-to-shore movement of Marine personnel and equipment," said Chief Boatswain's Mate David Convery, Assault Craft Unit 4 leading chief petty officer and craft master of landing craft air cushion (LCAC) 37.
With so many moving parts on both sea and land, the ability to move troops, vehicles and other tactical assets ashore quickly and to the right place at the right time is a crucial strategic element of an amphibious assault.
To accomplish this task, ACU 4 uses LCACs, which are hovercraft-type vehicles that can operate on both land and sea and move personnel and equipment five to seven times faster and access more beaches than conventional craft.
"Instead of only being able to access 17 percent of the world's beaches (like conventional methods), LCACs allow us to access over 70 percent," said Convery. "This gives the operational commanders a much broader range of missions they can accomplish."
Aside from being able to operate on both water and land, the LCAC is also capable of moving at speeds of more than 60 knots.
"The amount of speed we can achieve is huge," said Convery, "The time we can get Marines to the beach is incredible. The more you can put ashore, and the faster you can get them ashore, the quicker you can grab a foot print on that beach and you can hold that.
"In one shot I can have 180 combat-loaded Marines come running out of my vehicle and set up a perimeter, attack or defend a position."
The versatility of the LCACs also allows for faster troop movement while keeping Marines dry.
"We can go from dry ship to dry land," said Convery. "Marines never have to get wet and we don't get stuck on sand bars on the way to the beach."
As capable as the LCACs are, Convery stressed the importance of teamwork.
"You've got to have it," said Convery. "With it being a five-man crew and the amount of hardware and the equipment and hydraulics you have on this craft, if you're not a team player you won't be in the program that long.
"I have to know, as a craft master, these guys are able to identify a problem and correct it on their own without my guidance every single time."
Bold Alligator focuses on the Navy and Marines Corps' ability to conduct amphibious operations as one cohesive unit. ACU 4's unique abilities allow the Navy to put Marines on target, any time, anywhere.
Bold Alligator focuses on today's fight with today's forces, while showcasing the advantages of seabasing. This exercise takes place Jan. 30-Feb. 12 afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina.
Join the conversation about Bold Alligator 2012 on social media using #BA12.
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For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.