CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA - After more than a decade of war, the Marine Corps is beginning a new mission oriented towards the Pacific Ocean. But in keeping with its traditions as a desert-deployed force, Marines will be bringing their beloved-Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs) with them, and the key to this new mission is the Aqua-FOB.
"We've had two decades worth of experience building FOBs, from Desert Storm to Afghanistan, and the Aqua-FOB is the culmination of our modern FOB-building technology," said Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Commanding General of the III Marine Expeditionary Force. "Make no mistake. This will not be your father's FOB, or even your older brother's."
Traditionally, most FOBs are built out of available materials, usually sand and earth. Their simplistic design means that they can be constructed rather quickly, but carries some obvious limitations - like their inability to move or float on water. That's where the US military came up with the idea to replace sand with steel.
While a normal FOB is constructed on-site near a piece of key terrain, the new Aqua-FOB is actually assembled thousands of miles away at a US naval shipyard. First, the main berm, or "keel" is laid, followed by the rest of the berm, or "hull". The flight-line, or "flight deck" goes on top, as well as the other buildings, or "decks". Lastly, the ECP, or "gangway" is added to allow Marines to enter or exit the FOB.
To save both time and money, the first group of Aqua-FOBs will be a group of converted flat-deck ships called Amphibious Assault Ships, which the Marine Corps had been using for the last decade to transport battalions to and from the Middle East.
"These Aqua-FOBs are a real change from Camp Fallujah," said Lance Corporal Ken Sullivan, part of the first group of Marines on FOB USS Kearsarge. "We've still got a chow hall, a motor pool, and a flight line, but they're all on top of each other."
Corporal Dominick Franco, who's stood post at three different FOBs over his career, was also excited. "They've even upgraded the gun platforms. Instead of a SAW or a 240B, they have this gun called the Phalanx that can shoot-off something like a dozen rounds a second! Man, I can't wait to stand post with that! Bye-bye Momma Dog!"
However, other Marines see the Aqua-FOB as a deviation from the Marine Corps' historical mission.
"This mission is taking us further and further away from our roots as a second land army that conducts operations in the desert," said Sergeant Major Rafael Busto, who has done over a dozen deployments to the Middle East since 1990. "Why would we need a sea-going FOB anyways? Did Al Qaeda suddenly build a navy?"
Regardless, Lt. Gen. Glueck believes that the nay-sayers will eventually come around to the Aqua-FOB. "As Marines we have to be prepared to operate outside our comfort zone, and even though we've been deploying to the desert since Presley O'Bannon, I think the Marine Corps will eventually come around to the idea of being a seaborn force."
Still, Marines will have to adjust to some changes.
"I'm used to only dealing with a couple sailors, but here they're everywhere," exclaimed Sergeant Alan Michaels. As part of a deal with the Navy, the Aqua-FOBs will be staffed and operated primarily by naval personnel.
"I went up to one yesterday to complain about a rash I had, and he got all pissed off and said he was a radar operator. How was I supposed to know not all sailors are Corpsman? I even saw a full-bird Colonel yesterday, but the sailors kept calling him 'captain' for some reason."