By sheer numbers, it was impressive: 4,500 sailors and Marines, seven ships, 60 amphibious assault vehicles, 16 air-cushioned landing craft and numerous fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
Dubbed Dawn Blitz, the weeklong amphibious assault exercise this month on the beach at Camp Pendleton was the largest such exercise since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In Iraq and now Afghanistan, the Marines have been engaged in drawn-out conflicts hundreds of miles from their normal sea-borne supply lines.
So the brass decided it was time for a major exercise to train newer troops in the Marines’ traditional specialty.
Navy and Marine Corps brass, watching the final-day assault from a bluff atop Red Beach, seemed pleased at how their troops were handling the complexities of rushing men and equipment ashore, ready for combat.
“We’re good at it but we want to be better,” said Rear Adm. Earl L. Gay, commanding of the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 3.
At the Pentagon, however, some planners are wondering whether the expense of maintaining an amphibious assault capability is worth it — given the new weaponry in the hands of potential enemies. There is also controversy over the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and its proposed program cost of $13.2 billion.
— Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton, and Julian Barnes in Washington
— Photo: Marines train in a large-scale amphibious exercise, dubbed Dawn Blitz, at Camp Pendleton in June. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times