TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, US --
Assault Amphibious Vehicles are tracked armored vehicles that can transport 24 Marines or 10,000 pounds of cargo in hostile land and water operations. The AAV is armed with the UGWS (up-gunned weapons station), which mounts an M2 .50 caliber machine gun and a Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher. AAVs can travel at highway speeds for up to 400 miles inland and at speeds of up to 10 knots through water. The AAV is the only armored vehicle in the U.S. that is fully capable of operating on land and in the ocean.
3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion was originally activated Sept. 16, 1942, and was assigned to 3rd Marine Division. The battalion was known as 3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion until 1976, when the battalion was redesignated under its current name.
The battalion played a role in major conflicts in American history and has traveled extensively across the world during training and combat deployments. They have deployed to New Zealand, Guam, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Vietnam, in addition to supporting Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Restore Hope, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
3rd AABn was reassigned to 1st Marine Division in 1971 and they are currently under the command of Lt. Col. Howard F. Hall.
The Job, 1833: Assault Amphibious Vehicle Crewman
Marines with 3rd AABn carry the surface assault element of a landing force and their equipment in a single trip during amphibious operations to inland objectives. After they hit the shore, the battalion conducts mechanized operations and related combat support.
Crewmen get the infantry where they need to go. They get them as close as possible while providing supporting fire as they assault an objective.
“We carry the infantry into the fight,” said Sgt. David Williams, crew chief, 3rd AABn. “We provide heavy weapons and a mobile asset. We’re like the overhead watch.”
They provide sustained amphibious and ground mechanized support to the assault elements, as directed, and they are tasked to support units by clearing minefields and other obstacles during amphibious-operations.
In addition to their combat related duties, AAV crewmen are responsible for operating and maintaining their vehicles and weapons systems.
“The first thing a tracker takes pride in is his vehicle,” Williams said. “If (the AAV) isn’t up and running, you’re either humping or getting a ride with somebody else.
“Every day with an AAV is really maintenance, maintenance, maintenance,” Williams said. “You always have to keep on top of the vehicle.”
Crewmen constantly maintain their vehicles and are constantly training. They pass on their knowledge to ensure the future of the battalion.
“As an individual you take a lot of pride in your vehicle,” said Cpl. Zachary Hendry, crew chief, 3rd AABn. “You want your Marines learning something new every time you’re out in the field. You want them to know more than you do when they replace you.”
The AAV rear crewman, who prepares the AAV to employ troops and weapons during ship-to-shore movements and shore operations, performs maintenance on the vehicle and weapons station. The AAV driver operates and drives the AAV during movement, positions the AAV to fire on target, performs additional maintenance and operational duties. The AAV commander supervises all maintenance and operation of the AAV, assumes leadership and responsibility for the vehicle and crew as a whole.
Trackers rarely need anything extra. They can live with the bare essentials: combat vehicle crewman uniforms, steel toe boots, gloves, eye protection, flak, Kevlar, rifle, sling, 9/16ths wrench, 15/16ths wrench and a sleeping system. Everything necessary is already inside the AAV.
Outside of the gear that trackers are supposed to have, there isn’t anything that they would need. But Williams has his essentials. He packs Monsters, Ramen noodles and a portable camp stove — necessities as he calls them.
Williams and Hendry also made it very clear that trackers never bring anything that has apricots in the ingredients aboard the AAV. Things just go wrong.
“Anything that has apricots in it and is brought on an AAV, it’s bound to break down or sink,” Williams said. “That’s our kryptonite.”
“That is true for AAVs Marine Corps-wide,” Hendry said.
“But in all reality these are just old AMTRACKS,” Williams said.
“It’s the apricots,” Hendry fired back. “(The AAVs) aren’t old.”