A curious acronym adorns the side of an unassuming, khaki-colored Quonset hut aboard Camp Del Mar, CA. Painted in red on the wall are the bold letters “YAT-YAS.” Del Mar is part of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, so it’s easy to dismiss it as just another military acronym. But if a passerby stopped and asked a nearby Marine, “What does that mean?” the Marine would grin and reply, “You ain’t tracks, you ain’t shit.”
The hut, itself looking like a relic of World War I and like it might contain an old biplane from that era, is actually the World War II/Korea LVT museum. LVT stands for Landing Vehicle, Tracked. It is the predecessor of today’s assault amphibious vehicle, or AAV, or “Green Dragon,” “Big Green Monster,” “Gator,” “Amtrac,” “Track,” its different names go on and on. Yet, one thing the vehicle platform has yet to be called is retired. But that is soon to change, and the AAV may very well find itself inside that Quonset hut museum, with the museum’s name updated to WWII/Korea/OIF LVT and AAV Museum.
The Assault Amphibian Schoolhouse for both enlisted Marines and officers is located aboard Camp Del Mar, just down the road from the museum. I passed it on most days I was there for the amphibious officer course, 12 years ago. It was then I learned that YAT-YAS is the amtracker’s motto. I think it’s because they take a special kind of pride in their mission. After all, it succinctly describes the amphibious nature and mission of the Marine Corps. Just take a look at the Marines’ website. The section — Our Mission — features a hero image of a hulking AAV barreling onto a beach, excess ocean water draining from its hull, and sea spray shooting behind it. It captures aggression, violence of action, and embodies the old nickname for Marines, soldiers of the sea. It’s a modern-day sea monster come to wreak havoc.
In typical gallows humor, a hallmark of the military, Marines jokingly refer to AAVs as “aluminum coffins,” a much less flattering moniker than those listed above. There is a reason for that. Inside an AAV, up to 18 combat-loaded Marines (and there’s always room for more) can be packed in as the vehicle swims through the ocean to a beach or back to ship. Claustrophobia, seasickness, and aching muscles from sitting stiffly with gear on for an hour or more are the norm.