Boat company attacks water ops

29 Aug 2002 | Sgt. Joshua S. Higgins

1st Lt. Paul D. Stubbs said when it comes to water-borne operations, no one else in the Marine Corps is better than the devil dogs with Small Craft Company, 2nd Marine Division -- not just because they make up the only boat company in the Corps, but because the Marines are just that good.

Some of these water-loving leathernecks displayed just how good they really are during a five-day training exercise with II Marine Liaison Element here Aug. 19 through Aug. 23. The Marines successfully took on rough seas and close-space waterways while conducting tactical inserts and extracts off the coast at Cedar Island.

According to Stubbs, 1st Platoon commander, water operations can be very challenging due to the extreme vulnerabilities they inflict on a unit. He said most infantry squads would rather patrol 10 more miles to go around waterways just to avoid the dangers involved. For Small Craft Marines, however, overcoming those dangers is just another part of their job.

"Most people consider waterways an obstacle, but we like to think of them as our avenues of approach," said Stubbs.

To conduct missions so dangerous, the Marines use Riverine Assault Crafts and Ridged Raiding Crafts. Stubbs said the Ridged Raiding Craft, more commonly known as a "Raider," can transport up to eight combat-loaded Marines, but they do not have any type of organic fire support so they are escorted by RAC's. Each RAC is heavily armed with machine guns. There are M-240G mounts on each side of the boat, a 50-caliber mount on the bow, and an MK-19 grenade launcher mount at the stern. Stubbs said despite weighing 16,500 pounds, the RAC could reach speeds of 45 mph and the smaller Raider is right behind it at 40 mph.

"With these boats we can cover a lot of area with a lot of firepower," said Stubbs. "When we are fully manned we can carry a battalion of Marines anywhere that has at least two feet of water."

The Marines become familiar with these boats through required, two-month courses for each boat, in which they learn water navigation and general boat maintenance.

Stubbs said the Marines in the unit are very impressive at what they do and people who work with them have nothing but good things to say. He said their outstanding performance comes from a lot of hard work with Special Operations Training Group and the Coast Guard detachment at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Stubbs said specially trained Marines from 2nd Maintenance Company also ride along with the unit to fix advanced problems, and without them very bad things could happen.

"Water can be a really challenging working environment when you throw the mechanics of boats into the equation," said Stubbs. "When the boats go dead in the water, we could be dead in the water." 

Though the unit's main focus here was transporting II MLE, it also took advantage of a rare opportunity to conduct a live-fire exercise. The facility here hosts a waterborne firing range that restricts other boaters from coming within a three-mile radius of its targets.

"At Camp Lejeune we have a range to shoot on, but we are often limited to what we can do because there is a lot of boat traffic there," said Stubbs. "Here we can shoot three hundred-sixty degrees and not worry about it."

Col. Richard M. Lake, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, commanding officer, said the unit is fortunate II MLE asked for the company's support because it gave the Marines an opportunity to piggyback off their training to accomplish some of their own requirements.

"This is really good for them," said the Coco Beach, Fla., native. "Anytime we can get Small Craft Company out here it's a good thing because firing weapons from a boat is not easy to do."

For Pfc. Kenney W. Hagler, a machine gunner from Milton, N.C., the week on the water was a learning experience and one he'll never forget.

"I've had a great time out here," said Hagler. "I've learned so much just by watching the more senior guys in action. It makes me want to learn more about Small Craft Company."

Stubbs said he believes the company is mission capable, ready and willing to get anybody down any river, and his confidence comes from all the Marines' infantry background.

"Everyone here has an (infantry) primary military occupational specialty," said Stubbs. "We don't think of ourselves just as boat drivers; we think of ourselves as waterborne infantry."