Ten U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command teamed up with the U.S. Navy for a three-month deployment aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), returning to Little Creek this week. The SPMAGTF-SC detachment provided the 1,500-ton Burlington, officially a noncombatant manned by civilian mariners of the MSC alongside a USN commo team, with an embarked security team, providing force protection for the deployment.
This is the type of tasking that little groups of Marines will increasingly see in the future, no longer just the stuff of the “Gator Navy.”
Of course, it is something of a case of everything old is new again, as the Marines for something like 220 years regularly provided small dets on surface ships for security/gunnery/landing force missions. Back in the day, ships as small as gunboats, sloops, and frigates often had Marines aboard, although the practice was trimmed back to cruisers, battleships, and carriers by the 1920s (with a few notable exceptions).
The Marine Detachment, gunboat USS Dauntless (PG-61) – mid-1942
The last Marine Carrier Dets, useful for guarding admirals, performing TRAP missions, and keeping an eye on “special munitions” (aka nukes) were disbanded in 1998.
Friday I did an interview with Capt. Robert Mayne, Jr of the research vessel Aqua Quest. Mayne and his group have traveled the world doing marine salvage and maritime archeology for decades. Well on a recent adventure in Honduras, where he and his five man crew were going to help clear rivers and help local Miskito Indian divers out. You see those local divers down there, uneducated in proper dive tables and decompression, frequently get the bends from working on the ocean floor, surfacing on their last breath of air to get passed another tank, then going back down.
The Aqua Quest Six after returning to the U.S. in July after spending 52 days in a Honduran jail on bogus gun charges. From left to right: Michael McCabe, Devon Butler, Robert H. Mayne Jr, Nick Cook, Steven Matanich, and Kelly Garrett. (Photo: Aquaquest International)
The thing is, Mayne, his crew and the Aqua Quest soon found themselves on the bad end of a shakedown from a local prosecutor with the help of the police, navy, and a local judge over some legally stored firearms on board the ship. I say shakedown because they were told that, for the right amount of cash, their problems could simply go away.
Refusing to pay, they were thrown away in a local jail and forgotten.
Read the rest in my column, and the interview with Mayne over at Guns.com