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U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) during composite training unit exercise in the Atlantic Ocean Oct. 9, 2019. Combat cargo Marines are key members of the team that ensure all gear and equipment is loaded safely and efficiently. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

Photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims

Unsung Heroes of the 26th MEU

16 Oct 2019 | Cpl. Nathan Reyes 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

It is a tough job and not everyone is lining up to work at their pace. Combat cargo Marines have one of the most demanding jobs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). This is especially evident during Composite Training Unit Exercise. 

Combat cargo’s mission is to support the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s logistical requirements across the three classes of ships featured in MEU operations.

We are in charge of anything and everything that comes on and off the Bataan,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Novakoski, combat cargo man with the 26th MEU.

The platoon-sized element is divided into two sections. One controls the flight deck and hangar bay, while the other operates in the well deck of the vessel.

“The well deck Marines handle the landing craft, air cushions, landing craft, utilities and boat operations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brent Vines, logistics chief with the 26th MEU. “The hangar bay Marines support offloading and onloading of aircraft and personnel via the flight deck.”

Working in combat cargo is not only physically taxing, but it is also mentally exhausting.

“A challenge we face in combat cargo is the unknown,” said Vines. “There are many planning factors and moving parts for my crew.”

No matter what the operational tempo throws their way, they will be ready.

“We are busy, but safety is still our number one priority during routine operations or any unique task sent our way,” said Vines.

Many Marines and Sailors fail to recognize the essential role combat cargo plays in the MEU and Amphibious Ready Group team.

“Combat cargo is a vital part of daily ship life,” said Novakoski. “If we didn’t have Marines to work the long hours in combat cargo, ship supplies would struggle and missions wouldn’t be completed.”

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