Story by MC2 Kenneth Gardner, Amphibious Construction Battalion TWO
BOGEN, Norway – After battling high winds and chilling rains, Naval Beach Group (NBG) 2’s Naval Support Element (NSE) successfully completed its sea-based Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) offload of USNS 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010) with the instream offload of a U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank onto a beach in Bogen, Norway, Oct. 23, 2018, as part of Exercise Northern Screen.
Northern Screen is a bilateral exercise involving the United States Marine Corps’ Marine Rotational Force–Europe (MRF-E) and the Norwegian military, and is taking place in the vicinity of Setermoen, Norway, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, 2018, with the goal of improving the Marine Corps’ readiness for contingency operations in the Nordic/Baltic region by working together with Norwegian forces.
With the completion of more than 300 shipboard crane lifts, the NSE, along with its component commands, Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 2, and Naval Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 1, was able to demonstrate the effective offload and movement to shore of over 1,200 tons of Marine Corps combat equipment by conducting Lift-on/Lift-off and using an Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) Causeway Ferry throughout the operations.
“Some MPF offloads are done pier side, the capability can most certainly be exercised that way,” said Capt. Eric Anderson, the commodore of NBG-2 and the NSE commander. “But in many cases, the pier is not available or the water depth does not support a large MPF ship to come pier side in order to do so.”
A MPF offload is a strategic power-projecting capability that allows the offload of combat equipment, and supplies at port or at sea in order to equip and sustain two Marine Expeditionary Battalions for 30 days. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships of the MPF are strategically forward deployed and provide geographic combatant commanders with persistent forward presence and rapid crisis response capabilities.
“This exercise provided us the opportunity to do an instream offload thus allowing us an excellent opportunity to exercise our capability in getting all the equipment aboard the ship ashore in order to build the combat power in support of the Marine Corps,” said Anderson.
In order to accomplish this instream offload, Sailors from NCHB-1 used shipboard cranes to lower vehicles and equipment down to the causeway ferries, operated by ACB-2. Once loaded, the causeway ferries would then disembark the ship and make the three-mile open water transit to the beach.
As the causeway ferries approached the beach, Sailors from BMU-2 would then guide the causeway ferries to the designated beach offload positions. Once there, the causeway ferries would lower their bow ramps allowing the vehicles and equipment to disembark.
“All the Sailors involved did an absolutely fantastic job,” said Anderson. “Everyone knew their jobs, their spirits were very high, and they performed well in a very unique environment.”
Once the equipment was offloaded on the beach, Marines from the Arrival Assembly Operational Group (AAOG) marshaled the equipment and sent everything about an hour north to a Norwegian army base in Seteromeon. From there, the MRF-E 19.1, participating in Exercise Northern Screen, will use the equipment during joint training exercises with the Norwegian army.
“In order to capitalize on the overall concept of MPF ops you have to practice,” said Lt. Col. Brian Horvath, assistant officer in charge of the AAOG. “If you want to execute it during war time you have to practice it during peacetime by getting those reps and sets in by not only just doing pier side, but by being able to do the full capabilities of the ship and doing the instream offloads.”
The U.S. has a long and close relationship with Norway on defense and security cooperation. Norway hosts many training opportunities or exercises with the U.S and other Allies’ and partners’ to support interoperability of forces. These exercises are defensive by nature, and are undertaken in order to secure the collective defense of Norway and the alliance.
“Training in the arctic circle is unique,” said Horvath. “Not many people get to say that they have trained here, but being able to conduct these exercises in unfamiliar areas will pay huge dividends in the future. When we are called upon to go into new areas, we will be ready to go, and having shared these experiences with our Navy brothers and sisters is in invaluable.”