Ships, aircraft and personnel from a number of countries came together on October 25 to simulate a D-Day live amphibious assault on the shoreline of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during exercise Bold Alligator 2017 (BA17).
Bold Alligator is an annual exercise established in 2011 featuring U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel undertaking tactical level training for amphibious operations in support of the Navy-Marine Corp team’s core mission of maritime power projection.
Mexican, French and Canadian Navy ships took part in the drill with a total of nine nations joining different evolutions during the two-week exercise.
This year’s exercise incorporated amphibious and carrier strike group operations along with expeditionary mine countermeasures to provide a rigorous training environment for the combined forces.
D-Day, the main event of BA17, was a simulated, live amphibious assault on the beach involving multiple vessels and crafts from U.S. and partner nations. Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) loaded with U.S. Marines and allies led the charge towards the beachhead. Amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and Mexican Navy ship ARM Papaloapan (A411) served as critical staging platforms for the vehicles and launched the first two waves of AAVs commencing the assault.
After securing the beach, landing craft air cushions (LCAC) were the primary method of transport for the remainder of the amphibious operations. Six LCACs were used by the team to transport personnel, equipment and cargo throughout the exercise.
Upon arrival on the beach, coalition forces were met by their counterparts from the Marines and Navy Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 4 to conduct an expeditious and safe offload. D-Day also included Marine Corps helicopters, vehicles, and partner nations’ vehicles and field units.
Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4, assigned to Joint-Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, embarked six LCACs between three U.S. Navy ships: amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), and amphibious dock landing ships USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and Fort McHenry. Together these units completed approximately 51 ship-to-shore movements throughout the exercise.
“The ability to connect and improve our interoperability with partner nations is an important goal for Bold Alligator,” said Capt. Daniel Blackburn, commander, Amphibious Squadron 6. “Creating a strong team between the Navy and Marine Corps is the key enabler for us to have the ability to project power from the maritime environment.”