USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- Four months to the day before the 68th anniversary of the landing at Normandy, the Navy and Marine Corps team conducted another historic amphibious operation.
Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, the largest amphibious exercise in the past 10 years, culminated Feb. 6 with a D-Day landing on the beaches of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Amphibious craft and thousands of U.S. Marines and British and Canadian commandos deployed from multiple ships to the shores of North Carolina following a week at sea practicing all facets of amphibious operations. The exercise's scope and scale were last seen during the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"This type of an amphibious operation occurred at the start of the war as we brought forces over into the [Arabian] Gulf off the coast of Kuwait, in about this size of a task force," said Marine Col. Scott S. Jensen, commanding officer of Marine Air Group (MAG) 29. "The difference being, is once we got there we offloaded onto the shore and our command and control shifted into a friendly country, and we reset ourselves land-based and were ready to support the combatant commander."
Landing craft air cushions and amphibious assault vehicles delivered Marines and coalition forces from the United Kingdom and Canada from amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) to the beach in a mock amphibious landing. The exercise is a revitalization of amphibious capabilities and re-investment in the Navy-Marine Corps team.
Marines from Regimental Landing Team 2, MAG 29, 2nd Marine Regiment, and British and Canadian commandos embarked Kearsarge Jan. 23 through Feb. 3 in preparation for the landing. The combined nature of the exercise allowed the U.S. and its partners to share amphibious tactics.
"A lot of times we say, 'oh they're coming to learn our tactics, techniques and procedures,'" said Jensen. "But I think these are smart people from great countries who bring a lot to the table from what they've learned, and we're seeing a lot of that sharing."
While the exercise is the largest in 10 years, the ability to launch an aggressive amphibious assault has always been a capability the Navy and Marine Corps have maintained.
"What a lot of people don't realize, is that the assault on Afghanistan was launched from the sea, to 700 miles inland," said Capt. Peter Pagano, commander, Amphibious Squadron 4. "Those initial forces from amphibious ships and aircraft carriers, kicked off OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom)."
The importance of amphibious capability lies not only with a tactical edge, but also a logistical need to provide from the sea. Sea basing, the maritime services' revolutionary power projection doctrine, provides American and coalition forces the ability to sustain a fighting force anywhere in the world.
"There are a lot of places around the world that just don't have the infrastructure or the political position to allow a huge American force to fly in and operate," Jensen said. "There aren't many places with capabilities in the world that can match what we see in this team."
Bold Alligator began Jan. 30 and will continue until Feb. 12 afloat and ashore, in and around North Carolina and Virginia.
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