Marines, sailors jell on jaunt to Iwo Jima
ABOARD USS HARPERS FERRY
There’s a long rivalry between sailors and Marines. But when the services deploy together on amphibious ships like the USS Harpers Ferry, the rivalry gets left at the pier.
“We’re dedicated to amphibious operations in support of the Marines,” Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory Hightower said about the ship’s mission. “It’s our job to get them to their destination.”
And with the Marines comes a change in atmosphere.
“Each time a new group comes in they bring a new lifestyle to the ship,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Adams, a culinary specialist.
Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Sasebo-based sailors are often deployed together in the Pacific, sometimes for short excursions — like a jaunt last week from Okinawa to Iwo Jima for the 62nd anniversary commemoration of the World War II battle — and other times for months.
“Until we pick them up and bring them onboard, we hardly see them,” Hightower said.
At first, the tables at the mess are separated by green and blue, but eventually the two groups end up hanging out with each other.
“I normally buddy up with my Marine counterpart,” Ensign Dustin Smith, the ship’s weapons officer, said. “I’ve made really good friends with some of the Marine officers.”
The sailors form closer bonds with the Marines on longer deployments, Petty Officer 2nd Class Amanda Eck said.
During a seven-month deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of the Iraq war, “we ran out of things to say to each other, because everyone knew everything,” Eck said.
Adams said the cooks have to double and sometimes triple the amount of food made when Marines are aboard. “Mostly what they do is eat, sleep and eat again — and work out in between,” he said, noting their jobs for the most part don’t start until they get to shore. “What else are they going to do?”
The ship also gets louder.
“When they’re not around it’s so quiet,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Rogozinski said of Marines.
Like the karaoke singing — mostly country — blaring on the first deck some nights.
And sailors say the food gets better when the digital cammies show up.
“When Marines are onboard,” Smith said, “they break out the good stuff.”