A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 complex onboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, to commemorate the completion of the newest training facility in the amphibious force, Aug. 27. The facility will support operator training for the new Ship to Shore Connector (SSC), also known as Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 100, in the near future. It will ultimately house the SSC Full Mission Trainer (FMT), a simulator designed to replicate the controls and movement of the LCAC 100. The SSC constitutes the future of the integrated naval force’s high-speed surface connector capability. This training facility will enable U.S. Sailors and Marines to train like we fight and ensure the highest possible readiness of our amphibious forces
The new SSC FMT building is a game-changer for the West Coast amphibious forces; it enables all LCAC training to occur at Camp Pendleton and gives students 24/7 access to the LCACs physically located at ACU 5. This 8.5 million dollar and nearly 11,000 square foot facility will house the SSC full motion simulator system, computer systems, student and instructor spaces, and classrooms. The new facility will be manned and maintained by Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific (EWTGPAC), which also runs the current LCAC trainer onboard Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Coronado. The current trainer will remain operational until the new SSC FMT is brought fully online. In the interim, EWTGPAC intends to use the new building to support other aspects of LCAC training.
EWTGPAC also took the opportunity to hold a graduation ceremony for its current class of LCAC operators being trained on the Legacy LCAC FMT at NAB Coronado. Classes are kept small to ensure the students receive one-on-one training throughout the process and include classroom training as well as time in the FMT. The graduating group, class 2021-020, included four craft masters (the actual “pilots” of the craft), two craft engineers, and two navigators. With this basic level training completed, these personnel will now train at ACU 5 on an actual LCAC and complete what is called Advanced Qualification Training (AQT), an eight-week course focused on tactics and the various missions an LCAC conducts to include launching and recovering in the well deck of an amphibious ship.
Once complete, the ACU 5 Commanding Officer conducts qualification flights, also known as “Check-Rides,” and grants final qualification to those who are successful. Nearly all the instructors at EWTGPAC have experience working at ACU 5, typically serving a tour there prior to or following duty at EWTGPAC. This fosters a close working relationship between the two commands. U.S. Navy Capt. Cedric McNeal, director for landing craft support at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), procured funding for and provided oversight to the project, which broke ground in June 2020 and finished on time despite the significant challenges associated with COVID-19. He and his team worked closely with Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) San Diego on the project.