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From the Sands of Iwo Jima to Life on the Seven Seas

Experiencing things for the first time can be a scary or exciting moment in the lives of most people. Whether it is your first day of school, starting a new job, driving a car or for military members going on deployment; these firsts can at times be hectic.

As with most life-changing events, people learn how to adapt and hone the skills needed to take-on the next challenge.

This is especially true for Marines who are experiencing their first time at sea assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The 24th MEU is currently underway with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), participating in composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). Once every several months, a MEU joins with their sea-going brethren to complete all the required, integration-based training needed prior to the ship actually deploying into hostile areas around the world.

But life on board a ship was not something the average Marine recruit envisioned when they raised their hand and affirmed to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

“My first thought about living on a ship was; it was going to be cramped,” said Cpl. Terry A. Thayer, a Marine assigned to the 24th MEU. “When I first got on the ship, I wondered why there were so many short hallways and why do I have to step over things to get from point A to point B,” he added.

After being on board for a couple weeks, now the Cherry Point, N.C.-based Marine said he is starting to get used to life on a ship, understanding why passageways are configured a certain way and even starting to recognize some of the things being broadcasted over the ship’s intercom system.

“The berthing wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and the galley was a lot better than I imagined,” said Thayer. At the end of the day, no matter where he is, Thayer added, his job doesn’t change as a Marine and the mission still goes on.

This diverse approach to completing the mission is also a new experience for Lance Cpl. Tommy Bahr, a Marine assigned to the 24th MEU.

“I had no expectations,” said Bahr. “I heard stories about living on a ship. But honestly, I like it. It is a better environment than Afghanistan for sure, and the mission is a lot more diverse.”

Even though Bahr is making the best out of a tight situation, he still is eager to arrive on shore and complete the mission at hand.

“I just can’t wait to start training and get ‘boots on the ground.’” He also stated you have to always stay positive in life and look at things in a positive way.

“It is about the attitude you have toward [a new experience] and anything in your life,” Bahr said. “I think about it positively, not negatively. You have to find things to do to keep you busy. Then time will fly by.”

Whether you are a Marine deploying to a war zone or Sailor reporting from boot camp, a first-time on a ship can be a culture shock considering all the things the average person takes for granted.

Imagine going from having your own apartment, to now sharing an apartment-size living space with about 100 other people. Being able to enjoy an intimate meal at your dinner table, to standing in a line which resembles that of the most popular ride at an amusement park, only to sit elbow-to-elbow in a room one-third the size of the average high school cafeteria.

Considering all that, shipboard living may not be for everybody, but for the Marines assigned to the 24th MEU, the oath to fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea is what they live by. Living at sea is just another mission, which they are fully equipped, trained and prepared to overcome.

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  • Jose Segarra

    As a Marine from 1963-67, I went on a Med Cruise where I visited/trained/experienced with at least 30 countries in the Mediterranean from Turkey to England. Then I was sent to fight the War in Vietnam where I visited/experience/lived in at least 20 countries and Islands in the Far East/Australia/Japan/Philippians/Asia. As a Marine, I traveled around the globe, fought in Panama,Dominican Republic,Vietnam/experience many of the world’s finest,most exotic, distant cultures/made it with many of the globes finest,beautiful,exotic women/matured into a handsome,desired,strong specimen of a MAN! On top of that, I got free schooling/a house loan/medical care! If you’re young, don’t miss this opportunity to add a strong dose of culture/experience/pleasure/exciting frightfulness to your life! Join the FEW/PROUD/MARINES! QUICO!

  • Zach Crawford

    Been on the USS Belleau Wood and USS Germantown with the 31st MEU out of Okinawa. I’ve always like the concept of the MEU and the quick attack force that can deploy anywhere around the world. Semper Fi! 

  • Tomontis

    My first Med cruise was on the Trenton, but a little earlier, 1978…didn’t hit any rogue waves on that cruise..but did on the next..on her sister ship..the USS Shreveport. We hit a wave (or should I say It hit us?) which caught everyone onboard off-guard. We were in the chow hall when it hit, we happened to have greasy spare-ribs, which most of landed on the deck. Needless to say..tables were sliding everywhere..into bulkheads (walls) Two people got broken bones…one was when two tables slammed together…with his leg in the middle. That was actually mild compared to the wavess we hit in the Straits of Messina.(between Italy and Sicily)…one was so bad..it ripped the sterngate(corner) back like a piece of foil, we had to return to Naples (after just leaving there) for another 15 days for repair.

  • Anonymous

    Gym, Sleep, Spades… That’s the life of a Marine on ship.

  • DEZMAXWE11

    Marines don’t serve on Sea Duty anymore. After boot camp and ICT a small number of Marines were selected to complete an intensive month course of classes, PT and shipboard firefighting and damage control at Sea School, MB Portsmouth, VA. Then we were assigned to a shipboard Marine Detachment. We provided on-board security for “Special Weapons” sections and personal security for Fleet grade officers. We also stood full dress blues (and whites) “Honors” ceremonial/protocol details for visiting foreign state and military dignitaries. We also manned the twin 5″ inch gun mount during General Quarters. I was assigned to MARDET CLG-7 USS Springfield, COMSIXTHFLT, the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet. Gaeta Italy was our homeport. We sailed the Med from 1970-73. We visited all the major ports from Gibralta to Crete multiple times. Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Venice, Naples, Casablanca, Athens, Istanbul, Mykinos etc. It was great duty for a young Marine. SEMPER FI

  • Rlynch439

    My first deployment at sea was aboard the Iwo Jima LPH 2 and it was a very exciting time.  Although I adjusted to life aboard ship very well after a month at sea I could not wait to get my boots on the ground.

  • Acrovitz

    Learn how to play spades or domino’s.

  • STeven STeele

    While on a six month Med float aboard the USS Trenton in the late 1980′s, a rogue wave came along and gave us about a 15 degree pitch… My suggestion.. when the Swabbies tell ya to make sure things are stowed/secured.. do so.  Shipwide they lost several televisions in berthing areas and lots of Jarheads had personal gear get lost/damaged as well.

  • George530

    Fantastic!  Nothing like being at sea.  Just slow down on eating excessively during storms.  God bless you and the USMC for doing your part in defending our Nation.  No matter where you are stationed/serving,  we are depending on all of you.