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Local Training Exercise Prepares Tarawa For Next Deployment

Navy Newsstand

12/5/2002 7:01:00 AM

By Chief Journalist William Polson and Journalist 2nd Class Crystal King, USS Tarawa Public Affairs

ABOARD USS TARAWA, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Tarawa (LHA 1) had the feel of a warship ready for something important recently. As the ship steamed off the coast of Southern California, sights and sounds that hadn't filled her spaces since her previous deployment in 2000-2001 began to reappear.

AV-8B Harrier jets roared off the flight deck, Sailors busily performed aircraft maintenance in the hangar bay, and Marines, packed with combat gear, loaded onto landing craft in the well deck.

All of this was part of the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) that took place Oct. 21-31.

The exercise marked the first of three major training evolutions to prepare the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to deploy with the Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) - Tarawa, the dock landing ship, USS Comstock (LSD 45) and the amphibious assault dock USS Duluth (LPD 6). The ARG falls under the command of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 7.

"This is the first phase towards certifying the 15th MEU to deploy aboard Tarawa," said Capt. Jay Bowling, the ship's commanding officer. "This is the first time in our interdeployment training cycle that we, as an amphibious assault ship, worked with the Marines to get them ready for deployment. Basically, we're ironing out operational issues."

As the exercise progressed, the crew quickly adapted to the routine of a ship preparing for deployment. Down in the well deck, Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Joel Smith performed his duties as well deck safety observer to ensure an accident-free environment for the launch and recovery of the various embarked landing craft.

"The training in the well deck prepares us for operations we could face during deployment," said Smith, who watches out for such things as a boat line possibly under too much strain, or a Sailor not focusing on the job at hand. "With the experience we get here, we're more prepared to man up at a moment's notice, and operate the well deck safely and effectively to move the Marines and their equipment."

For Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Luke Wildigg, COMPTUEX meant a lot of long, hard hours on the flight deck landing Marine Harrier jets and helicopters.

"So far, we haven't trained this close with the Marines. Now, we're helping each other become familiar with the ways we conduct operations onboard. This allows us to be on the same page, so we know what to do in a real situation," said Wildigg.

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