Soldiers storm Westside beaches

Soldiers from the United States, Australia and Indonesia participating in the 2008 Rim of the Pacific — or RIMPAC — exercises practiced amphibious landing exercises at Major’s Bay at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, yesterday.

Taking off from a point farther down the beach, soldiers in AAVs — amphibious assault vehicles — navigated the waves, then drove straight out of the water onto the sand.

“If you love close confines, the smell of diesel and the sea waves, you’d love a ride in these things,” Capt. Rod Clark, commander of Amphibious Squadron 7, said.

The AAVs have been in use for 39 years and each weighs 26 tons. The amphibious tractors get about two miles per gallon and hold 171 gallons of diesel fuel.

Lance Corporal Richard Keith Housand, a Marine mechanic who works on the AAVs, said he is participating in his first RIMPAC.

“It’s pretty cool,” Housand said. “We get to do this (operate the AAVs) every day during RIMPAC.”

Housand, based out of Kane‘ohe Bay on O‘ahu, said they recently installed night sights on the AAVs.

Once on the beach, representatives of the community, including mayor select Bill “Kaipo” Asing, were allowed to inspect the AAVs and talk with the soldiers.

After a brief break on the beach, U.S. Marines were to fly by helicopter from the USS Bonhomme Richard and ride in the AAVs to the Australian amphibious ship HMAS Tolbrook.

“Everybody gets the chance to spend the night on the Australian ship,” Clark said.

Clark said the amphibious exercise was just recently planned.

“This came together a few days ago really,” Clark said. “We wanted to check the skill sets and make sure every country has the right skill sets to do what we ask them to do. We want to make sure we aren’t asking guys to do something they haven’t done in a while.”

It was the first day practicing getting the AAVs to the beach, Clark added.

Vice Admiral Sam Locklear, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, explained why the RIMPAC exercises are conducted at PMRF.

“This is one of the most impressive range facilities in the world,” Locklear said. “What they can provide for us is really significant. It’s important, from my perspective, for the security of our environment.”

RIMPAC exercises began June 28 and will run until July 31.

Military units from 10 countries are participating in RIMPAC — including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Approximately 20,000 soldiers are participating in RIMPAC, which occurs biannually.

RIMPAC has been conducted since 1971.

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