ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) is currently participating in Exercise Bold Alligator 2014 (BA14), a multi-national amphibious exercise along the Eastern Seaboard, scheduled to take place Oct. 29-Nov. 10.
BA14 showcases the advantages of sea basing and the Navy and Marine Corps' full range of amphibious operations and crisis response capabilities.
The exercise also provides the opportunity to enhance amphibious operations, readiness and cooperation with multi-national partners all while strengthening Navy and Marine Corps relationships.
"We have three separate amphibious groups coming together to do the mission," said Lt. j.g. Wai Gei Yau, a fire control officer attached to Iwo Jima. "We are all operating, communicating and working together on a massive scale."
The concept of BA began in 2008 and came to fruition in 2011, providing the largest annual opportunity to validate amphibious warfare at a high level.
"BA14 is one of biggest Navy evolutions we have on the amphibious side," said Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Steven Reed, an engineer attached to Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2. "We are landing forces on the beach to simulate a large-scale assault."
BA14 includes 19 nations, five Marine Corps commands, two Marine Corps units constructed for the purpose of this exercise, five Navy units, one Coast Guard unit and 19 Navy and coalition ships. While previous iterations focused on non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) and large-scale forcible entry operations, the focus this year is conducting crisis response operations from the sea, with both technological and live training involving fictional forces.
Amphibious landings, humanitarian assistance, long-range reinforcement of a U.S. Embassy, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel and amphibious raids are just some of the operations scheduled, with most events occurring with little to no warning.
"For this exercise, we have stood what is called 'alert 30'," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Eli Hernandez, an independent duty corpsman attached to the 24th MEU. "During alert 30, we are on the ramp which leads to the flight deck with all of our gear ready. We are just waiting for the word."
With the variety of exercises, both Navy and Marine Corps teams hope to take lessons learned from previous years and apply them to BA14.
"On paper, a lot of things sound good, but when you actually put them into practice, you find the little things that you never thought of," said Hernandez. "For example, during a mass causalty, it's 'Did you fill up your water? Did you bring your sleeping system, along with food?' It's the details that matter, in case you are on station longer than half a day. What if you had to stay a week?"
Enhancing blue-green communications, along with coalition communications, is one of the areas the teams are also looking to improve upon during BA14. Communicating between allies is vital to ensure the highest mission-success rate.
"Communication is really huge," said Yau. "If you can't communicate, you are basically a sitting duck. Being able to communicate with other ships, with other foreign nations, allows you to see issues beforehand."
Each year, Navy and Marine amphibious forces are called upon to bring aid where needed, or to provide safety to coalition forces. Since 1990, amphibious forces have responded to more than 100 crises and 900 cooperative engagement events in support of national security interests. Following the mantra 'we train the way we fight', exercises such as BA14 are executed in such a way to resemble the real deal as much as possible.
"Operations such as BA14 are important in case we ever had to execute a large amphibious attack," said Reed. "Everyone would know their place, their job and what they have to accomplish. With everyone on the same page, the process would go quicker and as planned."
BA14 is scheduled to take place Oct. 29 - Nov. 10 afloat and ashore along the Eastern Seaboard.
For more information about Exercise Bold Alligator 2014, please visit http://www.public.navy.mil/usff/ba/Pages/default.aspx and https://www.facebook.com/boldalligator
For more news from Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8, visit www.navy.mil/local/cpr8/.