AT SEA - The crowd roared as Lance Cpl. Michael Sigur, a supply clerk with 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, finished singing “I Won’t Complain,” a smooth, Southern gospel hymn to a crowd of more than 200 Marines and sailors aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD-23). Raising his hands to the crowd, the judges gave him their critiques, and he stepped off the stage. He would eventually win third place in the Anchorage Talent Show, April 13, 2014.
The talent show was part of an event called “Steel Beach,” a ship-wide barbecue held on the flight deck, and one of the many recreational events the Marines and sailors of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Association of Southeast Asian Nations participated in to relax and build camaraderie. Other events included a Swim Call – where Marines and sailors were allowed to swim in an area of water by the ship – Bingo tournaments, skeet shooting and fishing.
Steel Beach offered the almost 200 Marines with SPMAGTF-ASEAN a chance to unwind and relieve the monotony associated with long periods of being on ship. It also broke down boundaries between Marines and sailors, and officers and enlisted, allowing them to socialize in a casual setting, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jorge Nunez, Morale Welfare and Recreation section president aboard Anchorage.
Among the refreshments served were spare ribs, grilled chicken, cheeseburgers and more. Besides food and the talent show, Marines and sailors also played football and soccer nearby.
“I enjoyed the fact that we can sit down and talk to our higher-ups and officers in a relaxed environment,” said Sigur, of Beaumont, Texas. “It also didn’t matter what branch you were, it was all about having fun.”
Recreational events also provide the Marines and sailors with an increased understanding of each other’s roles, and their part in accomplishing the mission, giving them a broader understanding of what the Navy-Marine Corps team does.
“I got to meet a lot of cool people going to Steel Beach and talking to them, I got to understand how other people from other units do their job,” said Sigur.
Two days before Steel Beach, a Swim Call was held by the crew of Anchorage, allowing the Marines and sailors to swim in a small area behind the ship, secured by lifeboats and a safety line. The event provided a more physically intensive recreational activity for the Marines and sailors, as they had to fight off the currents along with their swim buddy.
“It was tough trying to get back on the ship and it was rocking back and forth, the water was either being sucked in or pushed away,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Machalk, a motor transport technician with 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “Even though it was really physical, you’re around more than a thousand miles away from land, swimming out in the middle of the ocean. It was a unique and awesome experience.”
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation section aboard the Anchorage is responsible for arranging most of the activities and for providing the prizes to the different competitive events held on the ship, such as the Bingo tournaments and the talent show.
“We offer different activities, games and entertainment for the crew during downtime,” said Nunez. “Amidst the training, maintenance and downtime, ship life can get very stressful. Troop welfare is also very important and we want to keep troop morale up.”
At the end of the day, the events highlighted the importance of building a cohesive Navy-Marine Corps team that can not only work together and respond to crises around the globe within a moment’s notice, but can also have fun together as a unit.
“It’s been a fun experience having more Marines and sailors on board,” said Nunez, of Houston, Texas. “But it doesn’t feel different. It just feels like we’re one team and everyone is having fun.”