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Squadron

Prior to 1920 the term "squadron" was used as "group" is today. With a reorganization of the Fleet in September 1920, the term squadron came into its present usage.

In June 1995 the Atlantic Fleet's surface combatant ships were reorganized into six core battle groups, nine destroyer squadrons and a new Western Hemisphere Group. The reorganization was phased in over the summer and took effect 31 August 1995, with homeport shifts occurring through 1998. The plan focused on developing squadron integrity, increasing Sailors' time in homeport, economizing training, and providing a more efficient organization to meet Western Hemisphere requirements. The greatest savings and improvements in efficiency were expected to come from tailoring intermediate and advanced training to the missions the ships will perform. All ships would still complete the basic training phase, but for some the overall training time could be cut between 20 and 44 days. The change in training strategy was intended to bring about 17 percent less time at sea between deployments for most cruisers, destroyers and frigates. Under the reorganization, two cruisers were permanently assigned to each carrier battle group. At the start of the intermediate training phase, a four-ship destroyer squadron, two submarines and a replenishment ship would join the core group to establish the battle group. Nine destroyer squadrons would support the six carrier battle groups, as well as supporting commitments with the Middle East Force, NATO's Standing Naval Force and other required operations. The squadrons were assigned to the battle groups on a rotational basis, depending on where they are in their maintenance and deployment cycles. With minimal homeport changes, ships were phased into their new squadrons upon completion of their current deployment cycle.

Destroyer Squadrons, composed of Guided Missle Cruisers, Destroyers, Frigates, or a combination of these type ships, can operate independently or as part of a battle group or task force. The Squadron typically consists of about half a dozen combatant ships and two thousand men and women. When a DESRON deploys with a carrier and its escort ships, the combined force is called a Carrier Task Group. The Destroyer Squadron has the dual missions of serving as the Immediate Superior in Command to assigned surface combatants, and performing as a sea going Warfare Commander or Major Command asset. Administratively the COMDESRON -- who typically holds the rank of Captain and is styled a Commodore -- reports directly to Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Pacific or Atlantic Fleet. Operationally, the COMDESRON reports to the Commander of the assigned numbered Fleet through a designated Battle Group Commander. In September-October 1995, as part of the Chief of Naval Operations reorganization of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet's surface forces, destroyer squadrons were designated as Immediate Superior in the Chain of Command (ISIC) with direct oversight of the training, maintenance and readiness of assigned ships. As an Immediate Superior in Command, the Destroyer Squadron develops the employment schedules, monitors and assesses training, and reports on the readiness status of squadron ships to the Type Commander and numbered Fleet Commander. As an afloat Major Commander, the Commander Destroyer Squadron is variously assigned by a numbered Fleet Command as a Battle Group Warfare Commander or as an independent multi-ship Major Commander at sea.

During deployment the Squadron Commodore serves as Sea Combat Commander (SCC). SCC duties encompass Surface Warfare Commander (SUWC), Under-Sea Warfare Commander (USWC), Maritime Inspection Commander (MIC) [U.N. Sanctions Enforcement], LAMPS Element Coordinator (LEC) ["LAMPS" are helos, specifically Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Muli-Purpsose System helos carried by the surface combatants], Defensive Mine Warfare (MIW-D), alternate Launch Area Coordinator (LAC) for Tomahawk missions and Submarine Operational Controlling Authority (SOCA) [responsible for coorinating employment of attack submarines assigned to the Battlegroup]. On 01 September 1998 COMDESRON 14 reorganized as a Tactical Destroyer Squadron (TACDESRON). Relinqueshing her duties as an ISIC in order to concentrate on tactical proficiency and warfighting, DESRON 14 is the premier squadron providing Opposing Forces (OPFOR) training for US and Allied forces in the Atlantic.

A tactical Amphibious Squadron organization is unique. Ships are assigned periodically to one of the tactical squadrons for specific operations or for temporary administrative purposes. The PHIBRON's original mission was to provide maintenance, training, and administrative oversight for LST, LSD and LKA class ships. In 1994 the PHIBRON's mission changed to conducting expeditionary warfare while maintaining an optimal state of readiness to effectively support national objectives as directed by Fleet Commanders. The oversight functions of the ships shifted to the Amphibious Group and the size of the staff was significantly reduced. Amphibious ships are assigned to an amphibious squadron which then becomes an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). Each amphibious squadron is designated by number and is comprised of an at-sea staff - typically 25 to 30 Sailors and Marines responsible for the day-to-day operations of the ships.

The ships assigned to the COMPHIBRON constitute a significant capability for conducting amphibious operations. Because of the versatility in ship design and personnel training, the Amphibious Task Force with its embarked Marine Corps landing forces and air combat element are capable of conducting a broad spectrum of non-combat operations, such as humanitarian assistance or evacuation of civilians from areas where natural events or hostile actions are a threat. The mission of an Amphibious Task Force is to transport and then debark Marine forces in the conduct of their assigned missions. This may be accomplished using conventional landing craft (LCU's), air cushioned landing craft (LCAC's), tracked amphibious vehicles (AAV's) or helicopters. Close air support for beach assaults can be provided by AV-8B harrier jets and AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters. To defend themselves from hostile forces, the ships of the ARG employ Rolling Air-Frame Missile (RAM) launchers and Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS), as well as electronic intercept/decoy equipment. If the ARG is called upon to conduct humanitarian operations, significant quantities of supplies and food can be transported for delivery to disaster victims. The ships' medical and dental departments can accommodate nearly 400 patients, providing daily outpatient treatment for sick or injured.

The squadron functions to prepare plans, embark amphibious forces, conduct rehearsals, movements and perform assaults upon hostile shores in support of national policy during low intensity conflicts and as a component of an integrated battle force during major conflicts. The Squadron has the capability to land troops and equipment by air and sea simultaneously, and to support troops in the field with fixed and rotary wing attack aircraft. The amphibious squadron commander with his staff is charged with responsibilities for planning and executing amphibious operations and deployments with a reinforced Marine Battalion. The Commodore acts as the Commander of the Landing Force and exercises tactical control of supporting elements, and directs tactical Amphibious Warfare operations within a joint, unified, or allied environment. It has the potential to operate as a component of a Naval Expeditionary Task Force, Joint Task Force, or of a larger Amphibious Task Force.

The PHIBRON carries a 2,500 member Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) plus the equipment and supplies to keep it fighting for up to two weeks. The amphibious squadron staff is capable of planning and executing amphibious assaults at the Marine Expeditionary Unit level with augmenting detachments from a Tactical Air Control Squadron, Naval Beach Group, Special Warfare Group, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and Fleet Surgical Team. Additionally it serves as Naval Forces Commander in various Joint Task Force Operations.

Amphibious Squadrons are built much like an athletic team whose coaching and training staff remain permanently intact and receive athletes only for the season. The Core Staff serves as the "coaching staff" for the different units under its command. These units are referred to as Naval Support Elements or NSEs. They serve on this "team" for one year. A PHIBRON's NSE's consists of an Amphibious Assault Ship (LHD or LHA), an Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD), a Dock Landing Ship (LSD), a Fleet Surgical Team (FST-6), a Fleet Information Warfare Center detachment (FIWC), a Naval Beach Group detachment (NBG-2), a Search and Rescue detachment (HC SAR), an Explosive Ordinance Disposal detachment (EOD), a Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON), and a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit (NSWTU). All elements come together for six months of training then deploy for six months as a forward-deployed, self-sustaining Amphibious Task Force. Upon completion of one deployment, the PHIBRON maintains control of its NSE's and remains ready to deploy for approximately one month. During that month the PHIBRON is on stand-by to respond to events around the world. Following this period, the PHIBRON "stands down," reducing to just the Core Staff, for approximately four months. During the stand-down period, the Core Staff receives incoming personnel and prepares for the upcoming training cycle. Following the stand-down the PHIBRON acquires new NSEs and begins the "work-up" process all over again. The NSE's are assigned to the Core Staff approximately six months prior to the scheduled Mediterranean Deployment. During this six month "work-up" period the PHIBRON and MEU come together to complete their intensive individual, small unit, and unit level training together to form a cohesive Navy/Marine Corps Team called an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). This training is accomplished through completing a number of work-up exercises including PHIBRON/MEU Integration Exercise (PMINT), MEUEX, JTFEX and SOCEX. Following the work-up period the ARG deploys for a period of six months. During this time, the ARG is a ready, forward-deployed, self-sustaining force that U.S. and Allied Regional Commanders can direct to accomplish a variety of maritime and special operations as well as conventional missions throughout areas of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. These missions may include: Humanitarian Assistance, Noncombatant Evacuations, Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, Mass Casualty and other conventional operations.

Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron (MPSRON) is a group of civilian-owned and civilian-crewed ships chartered by Military Sealift Command (MSC) loaded with prepositioned equipment and 30 days of supplies to support a MAGTF. The MPSRON's may have other ships under their operational control. These vessels are part of the Combat Prepositioning Force (USA) and Logistics Prepositioning Force (DLA and Staff Composition (Notional) Each squadron has a Navy staff assigned and commanded by a Navy Captain (COMPSRON). Within each squadron there are merchant marine vessels, manned by civilians, on long term charter to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) that are referred to as Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPSs). Conceptually, the MPS, along with the support vessels, provides for a rapid deployment of personnel and equipment of a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), by strategic airlift, to link-up with the prepositioned equipment and supplies (vehicles, crew served weapons, ammunition, repair parts, clothing, lighterage and supplies) embarked aboard MPS that are forward positioned for global contingency response. This prepositioning reduces the strategic lift (sea and air) requirements while at the same time reducing the time required to deploy a credible force in time of crisis or during an exercise. Note that an MPSRON has no inherent forcible entry capability; they compliment amphibious operations.

Submarine Squadrons provide the maintenance support for submarines. A Submarine Squadron typically consists of about half a dozen nuclear-powered submarines, and may also include a submarine tender and a floating drydock. In addition to the operational ships, the squadron staff is responsible for providing training, material and personnel readiness support. The Squadron 20 commander is responsible for five submarines and the 10 crews that man those submarines at all times. Squadron 20 is also the waterfront coordinator and principal squadron involved in planning and executing all SSBN refits with Trident Refit Facility. He is also responsible for all material readiness and fiscal responsibility. Submarine Squadron 16 was officially reactivated Aug. 7, 1997 as part of a Navywide effort to improve submarine support. Under this new model for supervising the operation, maintenance and training of the two-crewed submarine force, five submarines are in each Kings Bay squadron. By reducing the span of control to five submarines and 10 crews, each squadron can dedicate more effort to monitoring and servicing the submarines under its control. Additional new efficiencies were gained through specialization of the two squadrons. Squadron 20 remains the waterfront coordinator and principal squadron involved in planning and executing SSBN refits with the Trident Refit Facility. Squadron 16 has assumed the role of off-crew training coordinator and principal squadron involved in training and certifying that off-crews are ready to return to their ships. Squadron 16 also has the added benefit of more closely linking off-crew training to at-sea training.

The Tactical Air Control Squadron [TACRON], as the Commander Amphibious Squadron air operations staff, is involved in every aspect of amphibious air operations from real-time close air support, air defense, ship-to-shore troop movement by air, medical airborne evacuations, and long range planning. They are responsible for airspace management and control, as well as general coordination of operations in an amphibious objective area (AOA) or other assigned airspace. In addition, Joint Air (JFACC) expertise resides within the detachment to coordinate any requests for non-organic air assets, in a joint environment, to support an on-going amphibious operation. The TACRON mission does not end at the beach. As an expeditionary unit, TACRONs maintain the capability to man and operate existing air traffic control (ATC) facilities ashore or establish remote ATC at landing zones, temporary airfields or Forward Air Refueling Points (FARPs). TACRON personnel train alongside their fellow Marine Corps air controllers at remote air fields near Camp Lejeune, NC setting up expeditionary airfields, exercising their field equipment and techniques. Dressed in camouflage, wearing helmets, body armor and 9mm pistols TACRONites carry their field gear, radios and charts ashore to augment the Air Support Elements of the Marine Air Control Group (MACG). Just as TACRONs during WWII, with nothing more than a radio, chart, skill and courage, they provide airspace structure and safely deconflict aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing from all services and nationalities, in support of the ground commander's scheme of maneuver East coast TACRONs deploy two detachments per squadron. Each detachment deploys with 16 enlisted personnel, including 12 air traffic controllers, 2 operations specialists, information technology specialists, and an intelligence specialist. Support personnel also make up a detachment by providing administrative and messing assistance. Each detachment also deploys with five officers. The officer-in-charge (OIC) is an O-5 aviator and referred to as the Tactical Air Officer (TAO). The det OIC also serves as a member of the PHIBRON staff and at times is the squadron executive officer. Under his charge he has three naval aviators and one Marines Corps officer, representing a variety of helicopter, fixed-wing and forward air controller experience. Having detachments comprised of varied aviation community experience is necessary in order to handle the numerous contingencies encountered during amphibious operations.

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