ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicles began ensuring amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) is fit to fight for Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, Feb. 2.
The air-cushion hovercraft, which can carry more than a 60-ton payload, are heading from a beachhead in Little Creek, Va., to the open well deck of Wasp and back as they engage in the first part of the exercise, ensuring all personnel and supplies involved in Bold Alligator 2012 are ready to go.
"Right now, we're just 'cutting across the pond' performing underway replenishments and onloading Marines," said Gunnery Sgt. Mark R. Redding, a watch captain aboard USS Wasp. "Without these operations, we can't transition to the next stage of LCAC ops."
Wasp, the flagship of Bold Alligator 2012, can carry three LCACs in its well deck. Getting them in and out of the deck can by a tricky operation, especially in foul weather, said Chief Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical) Electrical Ronald L. Bolanowski. As a member of ACU 4, Bolanowski is a craftsman, or pilot, of an LCAC and a member of Assault Craft Unit 4.
"You have three different sets of controls you have to master to drive (the LCAC)," said Bolanowski. "After years of experience, it gets a little easier."
Loading the hovercraft requires the joint efforts of Marines and Sailors, to ensure safety and the efficient offload of the landing crafts. Coordination between Marine combat officers, enlisted Marines, ramp marshals, and well deck safety and control personnel led to a successful first evolution of operations, said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) Ronald L. Stewart, a well deck safety crew member for Wasp.
"Everything went as planned and we look forward to doing the same thing again," said Stewart.
When done supplying Bold Alligator ships with personnel and supplies, LCAC crews and support personnel take on their next evolution, getting the Marines to the beach to "put the fight to the enemy" during the largest naval amphibious exercise of the past 10 years.
Bolanowski said the LCAC crews will first perform rehearsal beach assaults in the next few days before taking on the actual exercise Monday.
According to the United States Marine Corps, LCACs can cross 70 percent of the world's coastlines, as opposed to the 15 percent for tradition naval craft. This makes them particularly suited to the joint beach front operations which the Navy and Marine Corps are reemphasizing during Bold Alligator.
It's pretty exciting to take part in an exercise this large, said Bolanowski, who says he's never been involved in a bigger demonstration of amphibious force. Though there's pressure to make Bold Alligator a success, Bolanowski said he's happy to be taking part in it from an LCAC.
"It's the best job in the Navy for an enlisted guy, it cannot get any better," said Bolanowski. "There's nowhere in the Navy that they allow an E-7 or above to be in charge of $22 million worth of military equipment. I absolutely love it."
Join the conversation about Bold Alligator 2012 on social media using #BA12.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS Wasp (LHD 1), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd1/.