CHIRIQUI GRANDE, Panama (NNS) -- Ninety service members aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) were giving the opportunity to ride amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs), while the ship was anchored off the coast of Panama Oct. 5.
Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion Alpha Company were conducting AAV training operations, while simultaneously boosting morale, by providing rides to personnel on board.
Marine Capt. John Bradley, Amphibious Squadron 6 combat cargo officer, was in charge of organizing the rides and saw first-hand the effect it had on those who participated.
"It was a big moral booster, especially for those who had never been on the back of an AAV before," said Bradley. "There were a few nervous faces in line going toward the AAVs, but many happy faces returned after their ride."
The rides lasted approximately 45 minutes, and consisted of the AAVs splashing out of the well deck and navigating 1,000 yards away from the ship before turning and circling the ship once before returning to the well deck. There were three waves of three AAVs with 10 passengers in each.
The first few seconds of the ride provided the most excitement for many participants, as the AAVs plunged from Iwo Jima's stern gate into the Caribbean Sea.
Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Cory Smith, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, had a front row seat for the event.
"It was awesome, I was in the turret seat for the splash," said Smith. "It was a good experience, not too many people can say they've ridden an AAV before."
Operations Specialist Seaman Apprentice Noah Deeds, of Manitou Springs, Colo., said she jumped at the opportunity to ride an AAV.
"When else would I be able to ride an AAV? It's a floating tank, its impressive," said Deeds.
The operations also served the purpose of cleaning the vehicles. Before Navy ships are allowed to return to the United States, they must pass an inspection administered by the Department of Agriculture. The rides provided the added benefit of getting some accumulated dirt off of the vehicles.
"Our final port comes next month, as well as a final wash-down and agricultural inspection," said Bradley. "Getting a jump on cleaning the vehicles is always a good start to the final wash-down."
Iwo Jima is currently underway in support of Continuing Promise 2010. Continuing Promise 2010 is a humanitarian civic assistance (HCA) mission.
The assigned medical and engineering staff embarked on board Iwo Jima will work with partner nation's teams to provide medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering assistance to eight different nations to improve mutual understanding of current medical issues.
For more news from USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd7/.