The smallest boat is the CRRC (Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft), which is used for "over the horizon clandestine insertions." It's a 15'6" inflatable, powered by a submersible (as in totally waterproof) 55-hp Johnson jet outboard. It can hold eight combat-equipped soldiers. I'm told that the hardest part of handling one of these is getting it upright after being flipped in the surf. Another demonstration that I'll leave for a different day.
"Two is one, one is none" is an oft-repeated mantra, says Kocab. Soldiers are taught that one boat in a war zone is the same as having no boats. Platoons mostly travel in small fleets, using formations such as lined astern, diamond, or wedge-tailing close enough to hide how many boats there are to oncoming traffic. The Herringbone is another. The marines use it in case of an air assault. Running astern of one another, they wait until the enemy aircraft is within firing range. Then odd numbers turn hardover one way, even goes the other. This confuses the enemy long enough to return fire-they hope.
Standing onshore as the platoon readies for exercises, the commander asks if I want to ride along.
"What are you guys doing?" I ask.
"Insertions and extractions. We're going to storm the beaches at dusk."
I have an evening flight to catch, but briefly remember the feel of the big gun in my sweaty grip. I'm eager to cap off a few rounds. "When will you be back," I ask the brass.
"When I'm satisfied," he replies as he stands on the bow barking orders.
Since he won't be satisfied anytime soon, I have to pass again. As the platoon heads out the inlet, it's comforting to know that on the other side of the world the marines of Small Craft Company are on patrol…and that I'm not with them.
Military bigwigs estimate that 70 percent of future battlefields will be in urban areas. Most of these major population centers are based near a coastline or along a river. The new frontlines will be at the water's edge, and new boats are needed for these challenges.
The answer? Small Unit Riverine Craft. I was at Camp Lejeune the day the SCC took delivery of the first two aluminum-hulled SURCs. They'll replace the Rigid Riding Craft and eventually the Riverine Assault Craft. My assessment? The SURC continues the Marine tradition of no-nonsense warrior boats while looking ahead to the future.
Twin 440-bhp Yanmars linked to Hamilton HJ292 jet drives power the boat to 39 knots in less than 20 seconds. Handling is crisp and responsive-180-degree turns can be accomplished in less than one boat length. The high-strength, solid-cell polyethylene collar not only provides small-arm ballistic protection but stability and redundant buoyancy as well. A section of the forward bow is equipped with a hydraulic landing door for beach access. Don't care for the aft seating arrangement? Well go ahead and toss the seats, they're completely removable. One nod to comfort that I'm impressed with is the molded-in console footrest (seriously). Aluminum console sides should stop anything short of a rocket-propelled grenade.