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Essex Expeditionary Strike Group
Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG)
LHD-2 Essex
"Iron Gator"

USS ESSEX (LHD-2) is the second ship in the all new WASP (LHD-1) class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships and was commissioned on October 17, 1992 in San Diego, CA. The mission of the ESSEX is to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea, as the centerpiece of the Navy's amphibious strategy...From the Sea.

USS ESSEX (LHD-2) is safe, trained and ready to fight. ESSEX' mission is to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea, as the centerpiece of the Navy's amphibious strategy of Forward ... From the Sea. ESSEX provides the means to deliver, command and support all elements of a Marine Landing Force in an assault by air and amphibious craft. In carrying out her mission, ESSEX has the option of utilizing various combinations of helicopters, Harrier II (AV-8B) Jump Jets and air cushion landing craft (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles, illustrating the LHD's flexibility.

ESSEX can also provide command and control and aircraft facilities for sea control missions, while operating with an aircraft carrier battle group. ESSEX will transport and land ashore not only troops, but also the tanks, trucks, jeeps, other vehicles, artillery, ammunition and various supplies necessary to support the amphibious assault mission. Monorail trains, moving at speeds up to 600 feet per minute, transport cargo and supplies from storage and staging areas throughout the ship to a 13,600 square foot well deck which opens to the sea through huge gates in the ship's stern. There, the cargo, troops and vehicles are loaded aboard landing craft for transit to the beach.

Air cushion landing craft can "fly" out of the dry well deck; or the well deck can be ballasted down for conventional craft to float out on their way to the assault area. Helicopter flights also transfer troops and equipment to the beach, while the ship's air traffic control capability simultaneously directs close air tactical support provided by embarked jet aircraft and helicopter gunships.

The ship's extensive medical facilities consist of six medical operating rooms, four dental operating rooms, medical laboratories and hospital facilities capable of caring for 600 patients. ESSEX is second only to the Navy's hospital ships in medical support capability, providing effective care to returning troops under battle conditions, or disaster relief in support of humanitarian missions during peacetime.

ESSEX is designed to carry a full range of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, Harrier II (AV-8B) Jump Jets, Air Cushion Landing Craft (LCAC), and many other landing craft and amphibious vehicles.

ESSEX is 844 feet long, with two steam propulsion plants to drive the 44,000 ton ship to speeds in excess of 24 knots. The ship's living spaces can support 3,200 crew members and embarked troops.

The ESSEX departed San Diego on her maiden deployment on October 25, 1994 during which, was a major participant in the withdrawal of the Multinational force from Somalia in Operation United Shield.

After a short Maintenance period, ESSEX embarked on a vigorous workup cycle, culminating in her participation in RIMPAC '96, a biennial, seven-nation naval exercise. On October 10, 1996, she embarked on her second Western Pacific deployment, with the 11th MEU (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron FIVE. During the deployment, ESSEX participated in multinational exercises with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, as well as Exercise Tandem Thrust '97, an American-Australian combined exercise with over 28,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 40 vessels participating.

Upon her return in April 1997, ESSEX again went into a short maintenance period, followed by a shortened workup cycle. She then departed for her third Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf deployment on June 22, 1998 with the 15th MEU (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron FIVE. ESSEX participated in Exercises Sea Soldier and Red Reef, and participated in Military SALT and Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Additionally, ESSEX supported Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone in southern Iraq.

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) successfully completed a two-week Certification Exercise (CERTEX) 21 April 2015 off the coast of Southern California. CERTEX is the final integrated-training event for the Essex ARG and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

"The ESX ARG/MEU performed exceedingly well during CERTEX," said Capt. Clint Carroll, commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 3. "We continue to train for every possible scenario, refining our procedure with each training mission. Coordinating, planning and executing the mission in an amphibious environment requires skill, attention to detail and the ability to adjust in a constantly evolving environment."

CERTEX is a comprehensive, complex training evolution that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and ship-to-shore capabilities. Although routinely conducted to maintain readiness, this CERTEX introduced a unique training event. The ARG conducted an inaugural joint recovery force exercise with Army Special Forces (SOF), U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy personnel.

"The Marines and Sailors of the ESX ARG/15th MEU team have demonstrated that they are capable of projecting a full range of missions from humanitarian assistance to full spectrum combat operations with skill and professionalism," said Marine Col. Vance Cryer, commanding officer, 15th MEU. "We have been through an extensive work-up cycle culminating with an intense final certification exercise covering much of the southwestern U.S. and are ready to provide flexible, responsive options to our nation's leadership wherever a crisis or contingency arises in the littorals."

With an ever-increasing focus on joint operations, the scenario allowed the different services training in the event of a joint maritime operation. "CERTEX was a great opportunity to learn and refine our methods during training, preparing us for potential real-world events," said Capt. Pete Mantz, USS Essex (LHD 2) commanding officer. "It allows our Navy and Marine Corps team to maintain a high state of readiness and really shows how important each Sailor or Marine is to the mission."

The ARG was also evaluated on many different scenarios testing their ability to operate in several mission-critical areas, including maritime boarding, combat flight operations and civilian evacuation drills.

The ARG/MEU team completed the first phase known as PHIBRON-MEU Integrated Training (PMINT) earlier in March, which gave the Blue/Green team their first opportunity to train together during staff-planning exercises and an amphibious-landing exercise. The second phase, Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), was completed in early April and allowed the Navy/Marine Corps team the opportunity to more fully integrate and cohesively conduct a variety of sea-based operations.

The Essex ARG was commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3 and consists of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and more than 2,600 Marines from the 15th MEU.

Additional Navy units assigned to and embarked aboard the Essex ARG/MEU include Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and Naval Beach Group (NBG) 1 comprised of Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 and 1, and Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 1. The 15th MEU is comprised of Marine forces from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion 1st Marines (BLT 3/1), Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 Reinforced, and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 15.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Eastern Pacific from the West Coast of North America to the international date line, and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy.

The First Essex

USS ESSEX (LHD-2) is the 5th ship to bear the name dating back to the frigate which was launched in Salem, Mass. on September 30, 1799.

Congress passed several acts to establish a token naval force and on 30 June 1798, the act which enabled ESSEX to be built came into being. This act allowed the President to accept vessels of war from private citizens on the credit of the United States.

In response to this action, 23 citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, opened a "Patriotic Subscription" on 17 July 1798 to build a vessel of war for the United Stars of America. And so it came to pass that a legend was born. On 25 October 1798, a meeting of the sponsors of the first ESSEX was held to determine the type of vessel to be built. From the Salem Gazette of 26 October 1798 came the following announcement which read in part: "At a meeting in this town on Tuesday last, of those gentlemen who have subscribed to build a ship for the service of the United States, it was voted unanimously to build a frigate of 32 guns, and to loan the same to the government ...."

A month later, the frigate's builder, Enoch Briggs, advertised for shipbuilding materials in a ringing appeal: "Take notice! Ye sons of freedom! Step forth and give your assistance in building the frigate to oppose French insolence and piracy! Let every man in possession of a white oak tree feel ambitious to be foremost in hurrying down the timber to Salem ... Where noble structure is to be fabricated to maintain your rights upon the seas and make the name of America respected among the nations of the world! Your largest and longest trees are wanted ... Four trees are wanted for the keel, which altogether will measure 146 feet in length, and hew 16 inches square. Please call on the subscriber, who ... Will pay the ready cash." The frigate was launched on 30 September 1799, before a crowd of 12,000 people.

The expected war with France did not materialize, but in the War of 1812, the first ESSEX compiled a record of battle unequaled by any other man-of-war and by the close of 1813, ESSEX was the only vessel of worth to be operating; all others having been captured, damaged or sunk.

The Second Essex

The second ESSEX, an ironclad steamer, was built in 1856 for use as a ferry. Originally NEW ERA, she was renamed ESSEX following purchase by the War Department on 20 September 1861. She was assigned duty with the Western Flotilla, an organization maintained, operated and controlled by the Army, but commanded by a naval officer. She participated in action against Confederate Forces on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, culminating in the capture of Fort Henry, Tennessee, a battle in which she was seriously damaged. After extensive repairs, she returned to duty and saw action at Vicksburg and Baton Rouge before being decommissioned on 20 July 1865.

The Third Essex

The third ESSEX, a wooden-screw steamer, was built by the United States at East Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 3 October 1876. Regarded as one of the finest ships of the Fleet, ESSEX saw action with the North and South Atlantic Squadrons and on the Pacific and Asiatic Stations. She returned to New York via the Suez Canal and was placed out of commission in May 1889. She was then designated as a training ship. ESSEX spent the next 14 years at Annapolis and then was lent to the Naval Militia of Ohio and eventually was assigned to the Naval Reserve of the State of Minnesota before being stricken from the record in 1930.

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