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Boxer Returns from Surge Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050916-10
Release Date: 9/16/2005 11:46:00 AM

By Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Steven Vanderwerff, USS Boxer Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) (the "Golden Gator") returned from its third deployment in three years Sept. 14 to the sound of cheers from family and friends.

The four-and-one-half-month deployment demonstrated the feasibility of the Navy’s Fleet Response Plan (FRP), which ensures ships are able to respond to real-world situations by maintaining high states of readiness during their surge windows.

While Boxer’s two previous deployments were in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the role of Sailors aboard the Golden Gator during this deployment was to build interoperability between the United States and key allies in the global war on terrorism.

“This deployment was a clear demonstration of the multimission capabilities that the L-Class big-brings to fleet commanders,” said Capt. T.J. Culora, Boxer’s commanding officer. “We were able to safely complete diverse tasks, including a joint amphibious landing, cooperation and formation tactics with several foreign navies and a rewarding humanitarian engagement mission in the Marshall Islands. All in all, I would say that this is a pretty good four-and-one-half-months' work. I am proud of the service and skill of the crew – they have performed magnificently.”

Boxer’s first mission, participation in exercise Talisman Saber ’05, took place June 11-27 on Australia’s famed Shoalwater Bay. Talisman Saber, a combination of what was once exercises Tandem Thrust, Kingfisher and Crocodile, was jointly sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defense Force Joint Operations Command.

The exercise served as a key training venue for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, as a scenario involving assembling a combined task force with short notice, power projection and forcible entry.

“Talisman Saber was a key exercise in the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility and a demonstration of support and solidarity between two nations committed to democracy, liberty and human rights,” said Culora. “It is a tangible expression of mutual respect and pledge of assistance.”

The exercise involved more than 17,000 U.S. and Australian service members. Working hand-in-hand, they performed more than 25 landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) trips and more than 1,300 Australian S-70A Blackhawk and U.S. MH-60S Nighthawk landings and takeoffs.

After completing exercises with Australia, Boxer journeyed to Kemaman, Malaysia, where the ship participated in the third phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).

Boxer served as the flagship for CARAT, Phase III operations, during which Malaysian and U.S. forces built cooperative military proficiencies July 12-18 with more than 150 Malaysian service members embarked.

The focus of the exercise was operational planning, command and control, tactics, logistics support and maritime law.

“CARAT is not only important to the Navy, but to the nation,” said Boxer’s Executive Officer Cmdr. Adrian J. Jansen. “Whether training to combat terrorism, provide mutual defense or humanitarian assistance relief, building a working relationship with the CARAT nations is important. CARAT helps to build a solid working relationship for any situation.”

The exercise was deemed a testament to the strength of the ties and teamwork that the U.S. and Malaysia have shared for decades. The ease with which the two nations came together directly reflected the spirit of their longstanding cooperative relationship. The exercise also strengthened professional skills of those involved at every level, from the flight deck to the engineering spaces.

Performing at peak performance with two successful exercises under its belt, the Golden Gator prepared for the third annual Joint Air and Sea Exercise (JASEX), where forces of nature also provided real-world challenges as Typhoon Matsa moved through the operating area.

Units moved more than 600 miles to stay one step ahead of the storm before returning to the operation area. Despite Matsa, Joint Air and Sea Exercise commenced aboard Boxer Aug. 7 in the vicinity of Okinawa with an armed flight deck of AV-8B Harrier IIs and a team of 87 Marines from the 1st Marine Air Wing.

“JASEX is one of those great opportunities where we can work with our nation’s other forces,” said Cmdr. Mark F. Volpe, Boxer’s operations officer. “Working as a joint task force is a great venue for learning from each other and integrating.”

During the seven–day exercise, Boxer, along with the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Strike Group, the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing, 5th Air Force and 1st Marine Air Wing, conducted joint training combining carrier and amphibious operations. After more than 60 mishap-free flight hours, Boxer wrapped up JASEX Aug. 13.

Boxer capped off its deployment as the summer quickly came to an end by conducting a community outreach program on the island of Majuro, the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Volunteers from among the more than 1,200 Sailors and Marines embarked aboard the ship provided critical assistance to the island nation.

Boxer’s medical staff, with the help of Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5, sponsored a community health fair and provided medical treatment to Majuro’s young and elderly. They also held cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, basic first aid and first-responder training for police, firefighters, emergency medical service workers, U.S. Embassy personnel and teachers from the World Peace Organization.

Teams of Boxer Sailors also went to local schools to read to the students and brighten their day with treats, coloring books and games. Other Sailors volunteered to help the community by restoring electricity and refurbishing a few public areas.

“This experience provided a unique opportunity for all involved,” said Lt. Johan Baik, one of Boxer’s two chaplains. “Our Sailors and Marines made a huge impact on the island and the community. This is one of the events that stay in a person’s heart forever.”

To cap off its deployment, Boxer held a "Tiger Cruise" for more than 150 family members and friends Sept. 7-14 while making its return transit from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, back to the ship’s homeport of San Diego.

The Tiger Cruise gave family and friends the opportunity to experience life as a Sailor at sea.

“I love the fact that my family finally gets to experience my life firsthand and learn what my job is all about,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Karina E. Perez-Prado, of Las Vegas. “It helps give my daughter a better understanding of what I do while I’m away from home.”

Throughout the cruise, "Tigers" were treated to views of Navy life during daily operations such as a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) launches from Boxer’s well deck and flight operations from the Golden Gator’s 844-foot-long flight deck. One of the favorite exercises was the "Killer Tomato" launching, where a large red balloon was deployed into the ocean as a target for gunner’s mates firing .50-caliber machine guns.

“There was so much to see and do. I learned a lot of interesting facts and was amazed by Boxer’s capabilities,” said the father of Quartermaster 3rd Class Michael B. Russell, San Diego. “My favorite places on Boxer were the bridge and the well deck, but the best part was being able to spend time with my son.”

In addition to observing operations, Tigers also had the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. Throughout the week, they were able to enjoy a “steel barn” picnic and “cinema at sea” in the hangar bay, and an ice cream social on the ship’s mess deck.

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