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First ESG Ready for Deployment

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030808-06

Release Date: 8/8/2003 4:10:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class (SW) McClain Shewman, 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Navy's first Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) recently completed its Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) off the coast of Southern California.

The ESG concept was stood-up in September 2002, and since its release, Commander 3rd Fleet (COMTHIRDFLT), in union with First Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), have been heavily engaged in the establishment, manning and training of the largest joint expeditionary strike-capable battle group.

Having completed their final training exercise, ESG-1 is now ready for deployment. The road to success required months of planning, the participation of more than 6,000 Sailors and Marines, and the blending of Navy and Marine Corps assets, such as Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) and Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs).

"We married strike escorts together with an ARG (Amphibious Ready Group) and a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit)," said Cmdr. Louis Meier, COMTHIRDFLT Battle Group training coordinator. "This really expands our capabilities."

Working together in various scenarios, the Navy and Marine Corps team overcame many threats and injected troops into a range of locations that wouldn't have been possible with only one military force in the picture.

"We have a strong maritime force, which can be complimented by the strong landing influence from the Marine Corps - our united abilities are complementary," said Capt. Joe Stuyvesant, COMTHIRDFLT assistant chief of staff for Readiness and Training. "When our forces go forward, they will almost always operate, act and fight in a joint environment, so it's critical that we train them accordingly.

"The Marines bring to us a potent striking force. They bring the ability to put boots on the ground when necessary, and they have attack aircraft - Cobras and Harrier jets."

Despite thorough planning and an expert Navy Marine Corps team, many of the scenarios are designed to change at the last minute due to actual events. During one part of the exercise at Camp Pendleton's Red Beach, Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) vehicles launched from USS Germantown (LSD 42) had to push back their landing time due to low visibility on the beach.

Although changes in scheduling like that could create a domino effect, the planners inserted variable back-up plans for each inject on the chance an event shifted backward, forward or didn't happen at all.

"Constant feedback between [the participants] allows for scenario adjustments that will accurately assess the ESG's concept potential while maximizing the opportunity for success," said Lt. Cmdr. Dave Gaddis, assistant Air Training for COMTHIRDFLT.

Having multiple operations running simultaneously can be a daunting task, but the planners for this JTFEX designed plenty of contingencies for themselves and for the participants.

"We have a Joint Operations Center on USS Peleliu (LHA 5) that brings all the warfare commanders together on one ship along with the Marines. All those things are now working together to form a synergy that expands the capabilities of the composite warfare system," said Meier.

The ESG composition adds to the combat tested ARG and MEU capabilities with increased defenses, strike, power projection, and Special Forces capabilities.

"Unlike a CSG (Carrier Strike Group), an ESG can place significant Marine Corps forces ashore for missions such as Humanitarian Assistance Operations and Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)," said Gaddis.

The role of Commander 3rd Fleet and 1 MEF is to set the stage for this exercise. Then, various scenarios are planned and injected into the JTFEX. Since this is the first JTFEX for an ESG, the developments are tailored specifically to the strike group's capabilities.

"Injects are designed to trigger time sensitive targeting of terrorist capabilities. The injects themselves build a picture of terrorist activity for the ESG commander," said Meier. "No single inject causes action - the intent is for the operational commander to derive the objective of the terrorist and react accordingly.

"The ESG was designed around the changing requirements of the global war on terrorism. Their focus is to provide the Navy and Marine Corps team with additional offensive capabilities and increased agility," he added.

With the JTFEX stamp of approval, ESG1 is now ready for deployment and will bring a new combination of combat assets to meet today's global requirements. The seven ships of ESG 1 - USS Peleliu (LHA 5), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Ogden (LPD 5), USS Port Royal (CG 73), USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Jarrett (FFG 33), and USS Greeneville (SSN 772) - are scheduled to deploy in August 2003.

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