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Essex Expeditionary Strike Group WESTPAC15 Deployment
LHD-2 Essex "Iron Gator"

Sailors and Marines from the USS Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed Naval Base San Diego 05 March 2018, in a first for the Navy’s Surface Warfare community – an ARG Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise. The exercise focused on advanced tactical training at sea to improve warfighting proficiency, lethality, and ship interoperability before further training in the ARG’s deployment cycle.

“Providing watch teams and warfare commanders the reps-and-sets they need to exercise and build their combat muscle is critical,” said Rear Adm. John Wade, commander of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC). “It’s easy to look at a group of sports teams and see who’s been putting time in at the track and the weight room.

That’s what this is – spring training to ensure these ships are fit, ready, and lethal.” Units participating in the Essex ARG SWATT are Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1, Essex, USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and USS Rushmore (LSD 47). They will also operate with embarked forces representing elements of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VFMA 211).

SMWDC is the command leading the exercise, and was established in 2015 to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force as the Surface Warfare community’s Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center Press Release – Mar. 6, 2018 LT Matthew Stroup, SMWDC Public Affairs Officer Email - matthew.a.stroup@navy.mil Phone - 619-767-6099 Warfighting Development Center. Advanced tactical training is one of SMWDC’s four lines of operation, and SWATT exercises are a key avenue of approach for the command to support its other three lines of operation; doctrine and tactical guidance development, operational support to deployed forces, and capabilities assessments, experimentation, and future requirements. ARG SWATT exercises provide dedicated in port and at sea training for surface ships that focus on watch team, unit, Air Defense Commander, and Surface Combat Commander training prior to full Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) integration. The exercise provides focused training in a number of specific warfare areas including Surface Warfare (SUW), Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare (SuASW), Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD), Amphibious Warfare (AMW), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Information Warfare (IW).

“The goal is for surface ships to go through a SWATT event during each and every deployment training cycle,” said Wade. “This is something that other communities carve out as sacred time for units and warfare commanders to learn to work together as teams before moving along in the training cycle. Quite simply, this is something we have to do as a community to maintain a competitive advantage against the peer and near-peer threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy.”

While the Essex ARG SWATT is the first full-length SWATT for an ARG, it isn’t the first SWATT exercise ever completed. The first was a cruiser-destroyer (CRUDES) SWATT with ships from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in 2016. In between the CRUDES and ARG SWATTs there have been a number of SWATT-like events where SMWDC leveraged existing exercises to deliver advanced tactical training to surface ships. Recent successful training events include those conducted with USS America (LHA 6) ARG, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) CSG, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) CSG, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. These SWATT-like exercises served not only as an opportunity to provide training to the fleet, but also as a critical part of SMWDC’s organizational learning process.

Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) transited the Pacific Ocean 02 April 2018 during an amphibious squadron and Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) integration (PMINT) exercise. PMINT is a two-week training evolution between Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th MEU, which allows Sailors and Marines to train as a cohesive unit in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Chennai, India, 23 January 2019. While in port, Rushmore will refuel and host Indian Navy personnel, while it’s embarked Sailors and Marines will have opportunities to tour the local area. "Rushmore Sailors and Marines are excited to visit Chennai and we appreciate the very warm welcome," said Cmdr. Robert Tryon, commanding officer of Rushmore. "Though this is a brief logistics and refueling port visit for Rushmore, everyone onboard is looking forward to touring Chennai and enjoying some well-deserved liberty."

Following USS Anchorage’s (LPD 23) visit to Visakhapatnam in December, this is the second time Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) personnel visited India in recent weeks and reflects a growing relationship between the U.S. and Indian navies. The ESXARG is comprised of Rushmore, Anchorage and USS Essex (LHD 2) and the 13th MEU. The ESXARGMEU was currently deployed to the 7th fleet area of operations to support regional stability, reassure partners and allies and maintain a presence postured to respond to any crisis ranging from humanitarian assistance to contingency operations.

In September 2018, the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II entered the Central Command area of operations for the first time. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the attached Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 is the first continental U.S.-based Navy and Marine Corps force to deploy with the Lightning II. The Essex ARG/MEU team is currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment. While in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence operations to reinforce to the U.S.’s commitment to partner nations in the region.

"As a forward-deployed force we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes," said Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1. "The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region."

Following a six-month comprehensive, pre-deployment training period, the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. The training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods which collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks to include deep air support, close air support, offensive air support and electronic warfare.

"When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force," said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.

The Essex ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). During deployment they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, PHIBRON 1, the "Blackjacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.

The 13th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced and VMFA 211; the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/1; and the Logistics Combat Element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

The Marine Corps F-35B, Lightning II, conducted its first combat strike in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Sept. 27. During this mission, the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander. “The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” said Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”

Sailors and Marines of the Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) returned to their homeport of San Diego, following a successful deployment to the Indo-Pacific, Middle East, Mediterranean, and Horn of Africa regions, 01 March 2019.

More than 4,500 sailors and Marines of the Essex ARG and embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in support of regional security, stability, and the free flow of maritime commerce.

“This deployment was a great example of dynamic force employment,” said Capt. Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1. “We were successful on our deployment because we operated the way we trained. Our team was manned, trained and equipped successfully so that we were able to meet mission requirements in every fleet.”

During the ARG/MEU’s deployment, the ships conducted subject matter exchanges and important theater security cooperation exercises with regional partners in 5th, 6th and 7th fleets as well as participated in military operations.

“Our dynamic Blue-Green team performed admirably and their accomplishments speak wonders to the resolve, resiliency and incredible sacrifice the Sailors, Marines, and their families made to make this a successful deployment,” said Olin. “I am proud to have been part of this deployment with this team, and after such a successful deployment, I know our Sailors and Marines, as well as their friends and families, are excited to be home.”

Essex is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). Embarked commands include “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC-21), Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3, and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.

13th MEU is commanded by Col. Chandler Nelms and consists of the Command Element, the Aviation Combat Element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the Ground Combat Element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/1 (Reinforced), and the Logistics Combat Element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

The end of this deployment is uniquely significant, as it was the inaugural combat deployment of the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II. “The Essex was embarked with the next generation of air assets,” said Olin. “The full integration of the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II drastically enhanced the ARG/MEU lethality and proved to be a credible strike and defense capability. The MV-22 provided the range and cargo capacity to maintain critical logistical lines of effort to maintain continued support of operations. This Essex deployment perfectly demonstrated the promising future of aviation for the ARG/MEU teams.”

Throughout deployment, the ARG/MEU participated in a variety of exercises with multinational partners throughout the Indo-Pacific, Mediterranean, and Middle East regions, which strengthened partnerships and increased combat readiness, amphibious and crisisresponse capabilities, and communication between U.S. and partner nation forces. In the western Pacific, sailors and Marines worked with militaries during bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises with Malaysia and Indonesia. Simultaneously, sailors and Marines of the Anchorage worked with the military of Sri Lanka to bolster regional partnerships. In the Middle East, the team participated in exercises with a variety of partners during bilateral engagements such as Eastern Maverick 19 with Qatar and the Theater Amphibious Combat Rehearsal, which was conducted in Djibouti.

"Our Sailors and Marines did an absolutely fantastic job this deployment," said Capt. Brian Mutty, commanding officer of Essex. "It was impressive to watch the Navy/Marine Corps teams execute every mission we were tasked with. During Theater Amphibious Combat Rehearsal and Eastern Maverick, the coordination between the Navy-Marine Corps team effectively projected power from the sea and ashore. Furthermore, the ship provided direct combat support for Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel."

As Rushmore and Essex conducted operations in the Middle East, Anchorage represented the ARG/MEU team as they operated in the Mediterranean Sea. The steadfast and formidable presence of Anchorage and the 13th MEU decisively advanced stability and security objectives in the region.

"Our ARG/MEU team operated across two geographic combatant commands simultaneously supporting multiple operations, exercises and subject matter expert exchanges," said Capt. Dennis Jacko, commanding officer of Anchorage. "The inherent flexibility of the ARG/MEU is what makes our team so valuable to theater commanders, and the robust capability of the LPD 17 Class to execute independent operations provides a force multiplier in every ARG."

Sailors and Marines of the ARG/MEU had the opportunity to visit several foreign ports during the duration of the deployment. Through these port visits, the crews were able to immerse themselves in diverse cultures and allow the local populace to interact with them in various activities such as tours and community relations projects. The ships visited ports in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Italy, Spain, Thailand, India, and United Arab Emirates. The ARG/MEU also conducted 11 community relation projects in 6 countries with over 230 sailors and Marines participating.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions that promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the Pacific.

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Page last modified: 18-01-2020 18:59:11 ZULU