USS NEW ORLEANS, At sea - Sailors aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) helped embarked Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) earn their flight deck qualifications during a pre-deployment exercise Aug. 12.
The qualification process is intended to augment the ship's air department for its upcoming deployment as part of Amphibious Squadron Five (PHIBRON 5) by giving hands-on training to Marines from various occupational specialties.
"We have a very small air department and if we have four helicopters at once and all four of our (landing signalman) are out there we wouldn't have very many people left," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Kelley Soucy. "So instead of sending four of our guys out there we can send two (Marines) to help back us up."
Marines taking part in the training received qualifications and training flight deck operations, which include cargo transfer, chocking and chaining helicopters to the flight deck, escorting people to and from helicopters and cargo transfer.
"It's a different experience for us Marines. I'm the one used to getting on the helos," said Lance Cpl. Sean Nakhontohap, a rifleman with the 11th MEU. "It's a big change, it's kind of challenging chocking and chaining an aircraft to the deck, but it's a good experience."
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Kelly, the senior combat cargo assistant aboard New Orleans, said having the Marines aboard the ship helps them become familiar with their amphibious roots and increases the interoperability between the two services.
"The Sailor's role has been to train the Marines, and they've been doing it very efficiently," said Kelly. "This ship is supposed to take Marines anywhere in the world in support of overseas contingency operations. It's important for us to work together because it's one team, one fight."
PHIBRON 5, New Orleans and embarked Marines assigned to the 11th MEU, are conducting PHIBRON-MEU Integrated Training (PMINT) as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.