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ESG 5 Completes COMPTUEX

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS041022-10
Release Date: 10/23/2004 3:30:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Andrea J. Leahy, Expeditionary Strike Group 5 Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5 completed a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) off the coast of Southern California in October.

During the 16-day exercise, diverse elements of the strike group came together to rehearse every imaginable situation they could encounter during real-world operations in support of the global war on terrorism.

"Realistic, challenging, and fast-paced, COMPTUEX provided extremely valuable training. We confronted a host of air, surface and sub-surface threats," said Strike Group Commander, Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames. "I'm immensely proud of the way our Sailors, Marines and Coastguardsmen performed."

During COMPTUEX, Sailors fired simulated missile attacks and pinpointed the location of adversarial submarines and aircraft. Specially trained teams from Strike Group ships practiced intercepting and boarding vessels in search of arms or drug smugglers. Gunners warded off small boat attacks, while military law enforcement professionals practiced proper treatment of prisoners of war, ESG 5 Joint Operations Center Officer Master Chief Operations Specialist (SW) Greg Setzer explained.

"We bring all of our core missions to the exercise," he said. "Once we deploy, any one of those missions can be tasked for execution at any time, and that can be anything from a humanitarian mission to interdicting terrorists."

He explained that even as the ships trained to operate at sea, Marines practiced amphibious assault and amphibious raid missions on the beach. They trained for long-range helicopter raids and fired artillery. The Marines also carried out mock noncombatant evacuation operations, all as first steps toward certification as a Special Operations Capable unit, something 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) leaders plan to earn in coming weeks.

"An amphibious ship must build a true relationship between the ship's crew and its embarked Marines," Lt. Cmdr. Steve Bienkowski, executive officer for the amphibious assault ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) said. "The planning, coordination, and communications must be superb to successfully complete our complex task. COMPTUEX allowed us to operate with our Marine teammates and hone our amphibious war fighting skills."

Exercise planners made the training missions realistic by combining simulated taskings with a mock opposition force composed of Navy ships, Marine role-players, a fleet of fighter/attack aircraft and several high-speed surface craft.

"It's half exercise drills and half free play," Setzer said. "(Most of the time), everybody understands what's coming around the corner, but the trainers throw in three days of unscripted, real-world missions we expect to see while deployed."

The unscripted training evolutions give strike group leaders a chance to see how well the previous drills prepared Sailors and Marines to operate under pressure. The strike group will do more unscripted training next month in preparation for a deployment in support of the global war on terrorism sometime this winter.

From a naval perspective, ESG 5 is a "one-stop shop" for the global war on terrorism. It represents a new and revolutionary concept for fighting terrorists in the world's littorals by harnessing the striking power of 6,000 Sailors, Marines and Coastguardsmen; seven surface ships; a submarine; more than 30 aircraft; high-speed landing craft; and the fire power of the 15th MEU.

ESG5 is the first Expeditionary Strike Group to operate with a Coast Guard cutter, USCGC (WHEC 724) Munro, bringing together all elements of our nation's sea services - Navy, Marine and Coast Guard - into a single fighting unit.

ESG5 is composed of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the amphibious ships USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Duluth (LPD 6) and Rushmore, along with USS Bunker Hill, the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69), frigate USS Thach (FFG 43), fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752), and cutter USCGC Munro.

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