Navy, Marines Flex `Gator Muscles

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As we all know, Marines really aren't supposed to engage in long land wars as they have done for the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq (and as they did in Vietnam). They're intended to conduct assaults from amphibious ships, colloquially known as "Gator Freighters."

In a return to its amphibious roots, the Marines yesterday kicked off the largest East Coast from-the-sea exercise, known as Bold Alligator, in a decade. It will run through Feb. 12.

Ships in the exercise include the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier and the USS Iwo Jima landing helicopter dock, which carries helicopters on its flight deck and assault craft in its well deck. The ship transports 2,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

The Navy said the purpose of the exercise -- conducted off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida -- is to "revitalize Navy and Marine Corps amphibious expeditionary tactics, techniques and procedures, and reinvigorate its culture of conducting combined Navy and Marine Corps operations from the sea."

One tactic the Marines in this exercise will not have to refine is one I engaged in more times than I can remember: climbing down a net on the side of an old style `gator freighter into a LCVP bobbing on the waves, a skill now long gone from the Corps thanks to ships such as the Iwo Jima.