More landing operations may be on the way in coming years

Marines who were part of the initial landing party move toward Green Beach at the close of Exercise Dawn Beach Sunday. Photo by Jim Shilander
Marines who were part of the initial landing party move toward Green Beach at the close of Exercise Dawn Blitz Sunday. Photo by Jim Shilander

By Jim Shilander

Seventy years after such an appearance on the California Coast would have set off a panic, personnel from the Japanese Self-Defense Force joined members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for Exercise Dawn Blitz early Sunday at Green Beach, near Trestles.

Cpt. Esteban Vickers said, for the Marines, the exercise was about gaining experience working with an ally as the unit prepares for deployment to the Pacific, and work out any kinks in an operation now, as opposed to having to do so in the heat of the moment. The expeditionary unit has also participated in a number of humanitarian missions in the past several years, including Operation Tomodachi, which provided assistance to Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The unit also assisted with Hurricane Sandy relief last year on the east coast.

“You don’t want the first time to be in battle, you want to practice beforehand,” Vickers said. “We always want to work with host nation’s militaries in crisis response. It’s good to build the bonds early.”

Among the first Marines on the beach in the very early morning hours Sunday helping to “secure” the beach before a larger force coming ashore in amphibious assault vehicles was 1st. Lt. Matt Chauvin. Chauvin said for those on the ground like him, the goal of the exercise was to be sure that such operations launched from a single ship, like the USS Harper’s Ferry, would be practical and effective.

“It’s pretty important,” Chauvin said. “This is a new concept with the boats, and it’s the first time bringing it to the West Coast.”

Vickers said with the nation’s strategic priorities moving from the Middle East to the Pacific, it was likely the Marine Corps will be using the beach more often in the coming years, including exercises with allies such as the Japanese. Green Beach, which is used by surfers and stand up paddlers, and has an active train line running through it, presents logistical issues, since the Marines did not want to interfere with the public’s use of the beach.

The Department of the Navy has voiced concerns about the attempt to put Trestles on the National Registry of Historic Places due to concerns about the ability to hold exercises in the area. The Navy leases San Onofre State Beach to the state of California, a lease that expires in 2021.

During the operation, members of the public were able to walk along the beach and surfers and paddle boarders dove in and out of waves in front of Marines. When the assault vehicles were coming ashore, one stand-up paddle boarder actually lingered in the landing zone for a good while before moving on minutes before the vehicles came ashore, on their way to one of the “combat town” training areas in Camp Pendleton.

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