Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group Completes 9 Month Deployment
Story Number: NNS070531-14
Release Date: 5/31/2007 6:19:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) James Bartels, USS Boxer Public Affairs
ABOARD USS BOXER (NNS) -- Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) returned from its twice-extended Western Pacific deployment May 31 to the cheers of friends and family.
BOXESG’s mission was to transport the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)(special operations capable(SOC)) to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Once the Marines were ashore, BOXESG spent five months in the Persian Gulf conducting maritime security operations (MSO) with coalition partners, operating under international maritime conventions to provide security and safety in international waters, which helped ensure commercial shipping could operate freely while transiting the Persian Gulf.
“BOXESG furthered our country’s efforts in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq and also helped protect the maritime environment,” said BOXESG and Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 Commander Capt. Peter Dallman.
“Our Navy and Coast Guard ships were integral to the coalition’s efforts to conduct MSO, build relations with regional nations, and to deter terrorism through our presence. Marines from the 15th MEU (SOC) did some incredible things in the Al Anbar province by establishing basic local governance, establishing a local police force, and conducting counter-insurgency operations,” Dallman added.
While en route to the Gulf, BOXESG helped strengthen ties between American, Canadian and Indian forces by participating in Malabar ’06, a multinational exercise which focused on numerous naval missions used to enhance the cooperative security relationship between the nations.
Thirteen ships from the three nations participated in the exercise as well as Marines from the 15th MEU (SOC) and Indian Soldiers assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Sikh Light Infantry. It was the first time a U.S. expeditionary strike group (ESG) led the exercise.
“Malabar ‘06 was a success,” said Lt. Jonathan Shannon, a PHIBRON 5 operations officer. “We incorporated an ESG for the first time and included the full spectrum of its capabilities. Malabar ‘06 stepped up to a new level of interoperability between nations.”
USS Boxer (LHD 4), flagship of BOXESG, reached numerous milestones during deployment by implementing a new off-duty tracking system, revamping its Damage Control Training Team requirements, pioneering an online dental tracking system, re-energizing the ship’s enlisted surface and air warfare specialist qualification process and achieving a Navywide first helicopter “hot load.”
“This ship has a value system and an attitude that is professional, welcoming and forthright,” said Boxer’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Matthew J. McCloskey. “Nobody is afraid to say that this is how we operate on Boxer, we get things done right the first time, and that is how we will keep doing it.”
During the deployment, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa Jr. visited the amphibious warship. Additionally, President George W. Bush made a Christmas Eve call to a Boxer Sailor to thank him for his service to the country.
“I’m extremely grateful for what you’re doing for our Navy and our nation,” said Mullen during his visit. “Few ships represent the Navy better than Boxer.”
The extended deployment also gave BOXESG Sailors and Marines the opportunity to experience the cultures of Singapore, India, Kingdom of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Australia.
“The crew has worked hard and done an outstanding job this deployment,” said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (AW/SW) Anthony M. Berry, Boxer’s Command Master Chief throughout most of the deployment. “They definitely deserved experiencing all that these countries had to offer.”
During the port visits, BOXESG Sailors and Marines volunteered their free time to lend a hand in several community service projects in Singapore and Perth, such as planting shrubs and trees, a beach clean-up, visiting a children’s hospital and helping at a wildlife preserve. More than 100 strike group Sailors and Marines helped build homes in Lonavala, India, as part of the Habitat for Humanity’s “Jimmy Carter Project”.
“Community service projects let us reach out and promote brotherhood and sisterhood by lending a helping hand,” said Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. John S. Kroener. “There were so many different opportunities to volunteer. We had a great turnout this deployment.”
On the final leg of its journey, BOXESG held a "Tiger Cruise" for family and friends of Sailors and Marines. The tiger cruise gave them the opportunity to experience life at sea.
“Tiger cruise is a great opportunity to show the community, as well as our friends and families, what we do as Sailors,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bob Saunders, Boxer’s tiger cruise coordinator. “Anyone can go on a commercial cruise, but until you are underway on a warship, you can’t appreciate our lifestyle or camaraderie that we share.”
As the ships of BOXESG returned home, Sailors and Marines manned the rails and were greeted with a pier-side homecoming celebration, bringing an end to their nearly nine-month deployment.
BOXESG is comprised of Boxer, USS Dubuque (LPD 8), USS Comstock (LSD 45), the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC) and PHIBRON 5. BOXESG deployed with USS Benfold (DDG 65), USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WHEC 726) and Canadian Frigate HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341), who returned to San Diego on March 13.
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