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Essex Welcomes Marine Aviation Combat Element

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061004-11
Release Date: 10/4/2006 1:16:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marvin E. Thompson Jr., USS Essex Public Affairs

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- Preparing for their fall patrol with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), USS Essex (LHD 2) began onloading the MEU’s aviation combat element (ACE) aircraft and personnel during the transit to Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 26 and 27.

With aircraft and crews of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) (Reinforced) 265 aboard, Essex has an aviation capability that gives a vital boost to its mission of moving personnel and equipment from ship to shore.

“The mission of ACE is to support ground troops, provide close air support, and get troops to where they need to be,” said Marine Corps Capt. Brian P. Carey, a pilot with the squadron. “The ACE brings on roughly 300 Marines along with AH-1W Cobra, UH-1N Huey, CH-53E Super Stallion, and CH-46E Sea Knight aircraft to support the mission."

Having the ACE aboard also gives Essex airmen an exceptional opportunity to work hands on with an attached squadron, said Essex air department members.

“Sometimes it gets challenging when new squadrons come on board,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Shaun Downs. “There is a lot of teaching and learning that goes on between us and them. They are good to work with and very professional,” added Downs.

Both sides say it is a win-win situation.

“It’s always good for us to come back to Essex,” added Carey. “It is great training for us in a challenging environment, and it’s also a great way for us to hone our skills.”

Essex is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and is the flagship for the Sasebo, Japan-based Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, which serves under Commander, Task Force 76. Task Force 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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