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Essex ARG On Loads U.S., ROK Marines for Foal Eagle 07

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070326-01
Release Date: 3/26/2007 10:47:00 AM


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael A. Lantron and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

POHANG, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Amphibious ships of Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG) completed the on load of U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines and equipment here March 25.

The embarkation marks the final preparation step before commencing the bilateral exercise Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI)/Foal Eagle (FE) 07.

The two annually conducted, concurrent combined training exercises are held between U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and ROK armed forces to enhance overall joint readiness and the joint ability to protect the ROK from external threats.

FE 07, now underway, is set to focus on the strike-from-the-sea component of Navy-Marine Corps operations while allowing both forces to collaborate on at-sea defense tactics.

As Navy-Marine Corps counterparts of both nations met and interacted with each other in the initial phase of FE here, the integration senior leaders hope to foster seemed already apparent.

“At its most basic level, RSOI and Foal Eagle are training opportunities, so that we can be more jointly proficient in what we do. Combat readiness requires practice,” said Capt. Anthony J. Pachuta, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 and Essex Amphibious Readiness Group (ESXARG) task group commander. “But more than operational proficiency, this exercise creates and reaffirms friendships so that we can more closely work together if any type of emergent situation were to arise.”

The ESXARG, consisting of USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46), took on more than 600 ROK Marines and their equipment, including Amphibious Assault Vehicles, 7-ton trucks and Humvees. The ROK personnel will stay aboard the ARG ships throughout the exercise.

Amphibious ships of the ARG also re-embarked a number of air and ground elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), who have been conducting routine pre-deployment training in the ROK since March 6. The remaining elements of the MEU ashore will continue training as part of the exercise.

Also embarking was ROK Navy Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 53, which will work alongside the U.S. Navy PHIBRON 11 to conduct defense of the amphibious task force training scenarios and the final amphibious landing.

Upon arrival aboard the ARG ships, ROK members toured their new environments and met the U.S. Sailors and Marines. Despite some language challenges, common ground was found.

“It was very exciting to come onboard and I look forward to working with the U.S. forces,” said ROK Marine Sgt. Jaehuiun Lee.

ESXARG Sailors shared similar thoughts: “We always look forward to working with other nationalities, and I hope to learn as much as possible from them,” said Quartermaster 2nd Class (SW) Jeffery D. Ball, a member of Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1.

Though the exercise will culminate with a simulated amphibious operation, the end result is meant to be a tighter military-to-military relationship between the two countries.

“We enjoy a longstanding partnership with the ROK forces,” said 31st MEU Commanding Officer, Col. John Mayer, who was involved in similar joint training when he was a junior Marine officer 20 years ago. “To be able to do combined amphibious operations — the hallmark of the Marine Corps — with the ROK, will strengthen and enhance our capabilities and build our relationship as strategic partners.”

Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 / Task Force (CTF) 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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