OKINAWA, Japan - “There is always a lot of curiosity about the red patches,” said Lance Cpl. David V. Whitehead, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, referring to 3-inch by 1-inch red patches sewn onto the trouser legs and covers of landing support specialist Marines. “If (junior) Marines are around we can be asked up to five times a day why we wear them. It’s always surprising how many people don’t know what they are.”
The patches date back to the Pacific island-hopping campaign of World War II where the predecessors of LSS Marines would frequently become intermingled with infantry immediately following an amphibious assault.
The landing support mission required the LSS Marines to be at the forefront, in the thick of operations along the beaches. The red patches allowed for quick and positive identification of the Marines and their vital role in the confusion during and following the battles.
“LSS Marines play a very important role in the force-generation process during expeditionary operations simply because they are experts in on-loading and off-loading personnel, supplies and equipment; they ensure the resources that set deployed Marines up for success are readily available as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said 1st Lt. Mason D. McKee, a platoon commander with Transportation Services Company, CLB-4, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The same thing can be said about the force sustainment process during expeditionary operations … landing support can continue to focus its energy on receiving additional supplies and gear from ports or airfields after the initial push into the area.”
The ability to maintain logistics support for remote patrol bases and forward operating bases, and in areas affected by natural disasters, expands the capabilities of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force significantly.
“(Landing support) operations are extremely vital to mission accomplishment when the mission demands troops to operate in remote, austere environments because they offer an expedient way to move supplies and equipment to and from areas that are not conveniently accessible by truck,” said McKee. “Having a reliable system in place that allows us to sustain troops operating far beyond the wire is remarkably advantageous because it helps us maintain momentum and initiative, two things necessary for prevailing in any conflict.”
Helicopter support team missions are one of the more unique and sought-after capabilities of LSS Marines. Helicopters or tiltrotor aircraft deliver or retrograde, vehicles, equipment or supplies by means of suspending the cargo beneath the aircraft using cables during HST operations. LSS Marines quickly attach or detach the cables in a landing zone allowing the aircraft to spend a minimum amount of time vulnerable while hovering at low altitude.
“Landing support Marines are formally trained in HST operations and are capable of deploying specialized teams in order to send and receive gear, equipment and supplies on a moment’s notice to remote and hard-to-reach locations or areas that have been devastated by a natural disaster,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph R. Gonzales, a landing support specialist with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd MLG.
The wide-ranging capabilities and services provided by LSS Marines maintain expeditionary missions across III MEF and give commanders the confidence to deploy their Marines into even the most austere environments.
“Landing support Marines (provide) continuity for the flow of personnel, gear and supplies for the duration of the operation or exercise,” said Gonzales. “They get the right gear to and from the right place at the right time.”