FEBRUARY 6, 2015, GULF OF ADEN (NNS) – When most of us picture an amphibious assault, we see waterborne craft loaded with Marines, trundling through the surf as bullets, bombs, and landmines thunder across the beach.
This is an exciting scene, and one that Hollywood has shown us many times, but the Marines wouldn’t make it far without the dedicated men and women of a Navy beachmaster unit, or BMU.
BMU-2 is based out of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Their motto proclaims “this beach is mine,” and it is their job to ensure a safe landing zone for any waterborne forces of the Atlantic fleet. That means they are the first ones there, surveying the beach long before most craft even wet their hull.
“Our job is to safely get people and gear ashore,” said Engineman 1st Class Jordan Grinnell, from Cary, North Carolina, who has been with BMU-2 for two years. “We facilitate the movement of personnel, vehicles, and supplies across the beach to support the Marines in their mission.”
BMU was born from World War II era operations, when the United States realized a need for a trained team to be able to ensure the safe and orderly flow of troops, equipment and supplies along the beach. Small units called Beach Parties were formed, originally composed of members from the ship’s crew. These pioneers eventually evolved into the separate command that we know today.
Currently, BMU-2 has personnel stationed with all three ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), including the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Keevin Outlaw, a Senior Ramp Marshall from Edenton, North Carolina, has been with BMU-2 for four and a half years and is one of those few stationed aboard Fort McHenry.
“When we land, we’ll set up a perimeter that’s anywhere between 150 and 300 yards,” said Outlaw. “We’ll provide security and make sure the incoming craft make it up the beach. As long as there are craft still on the beach, we stay there.”
BMU-2 undergoes extensive training to carry out their role, familiarizing themselves with security postures, becoming proficient with a variety of weapons, and conducting day and nighttime operations.
“We’re always prepared,” said Outlaw. “It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, we’re ready to operate in both.”
The unit is comprised of Sailors of various rates. All of the different skill sets required to get the job done.
“Almost all the rates you would find on a ship, we have here,” said Grinell. “We have gunner’s mates, boatswain’s mates, electronic technicians, and all the administrative rates like yeomen and personnel specialists. We even bring in Seabees to be temporarily assigned as mechanics.”
As part of the “gator,” or amphibious Navy, the BMU is divided into smaller teams when they are deployed on ships. Their tactical size means they frequently go unnoticed by Sailors aboard larger ships.
“Our command is a different side of the Navy, a shore side, that most people never get to see,” said Outlaw. “It’s exciting to be out here and able to show people what we do.”
BMU-2 provides beach party teams to the entire Atlantic fleet while their sister command, BMU-1, based out of Coronado, California, does the same for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“We have a really easygoing but hard working command,” said Grinnell. “It’s a really diverse group of Sailors, with high morale, who are committed to doing what we do.”
BMU-2 is attached to the Iwo Amphibious Ready Group, which is currently deployed with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
For more news from Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8 , visit www.navy.mil/local/cpr8/.