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Essex ESG Completes Certification Exercises

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080314-05
Release Date: 3/14/2008 11:54:00 AM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Ty Swartz, USS Essex Public Affairs

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- Commander Task Force (CTF) 76 successfully completed Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) Certification during exercises off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, March 14.

The four-day process further developed the Essex ESG's ability to operate in an integrated or coalition force environment.

The flag staff of CTF 76 embarked the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and exercised operational command over nine different ships and units including Commander Amphibious Squadron 11, Essex, the dock landing ship USS Juneau (LPD 10), and the guided missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Chafee (DDG 90).

During the certification, the ships worked together to defend the ESG from simulated aggression such as surface, subsurface and computer network attacks.

Certification as an ESG is a graduate-level exercise that tests the commander's ability to effectively conduct command and control over warfare commanders and units, according to Rear Adm. David Philman, commander, Strike Force Training Pacific.

"This certification was conducted during three distinct exercises over a period of two months, including Balikatan, Key Resolve, and the ESG Certification," said Philman. "Essex Strike Group performed well during the three phases of their certification."

"The keys to success for the certification recommendation that we provide to C7F are threefold: Strong leadership throughout the Strike Group, sound processes, which were refined over the past two months, and solid execution," he added.

An ESG combines the capability of amphibious assault and landing ships with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit, two or more cruiser/destroyer-type ships, and sometimes a submarine.

According to CTF 76 Commander, Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, the ESG Certification tested every aspect of the ESG's warfighting capabilities.

"This certification allows us to operate as an Expeditionary Strike Group with escorts, cruisers and destroyers assigned in any number of venues, as a fully capable strike force," she said.

The ESG has the flexibility to conduct a wide range of missions from landing force operations in a hostile maritime environment to humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Under most circumstances, the ESG is led by a Navy captain and a Marine colonel in a mutually supporting relationship. When necessary, a flag or general officer will embark and assume tactical command and control over warfare commanders and units.

"We demand a lot from our carrier and expeditionary strike groups, and the fleet commanders have high expectations for the performance of each strike group," said Philman. "This expectation is based on well established standards, and it is these standards (to which) we train, and the fleet commanders certify."

Pottenger welcomes the training process, adding that unlike ships in the states that certify to go on deployment, Essex ESG is continuously forward deployed, so the ESG Certification is actually a method to increase the Strike Group's already high level of readiness.

"The challenge for us is that we don't get the types of workups that the CONUS (Continental United States) expeditionary strike groups get," said Pottenger. "They get several weeks if not months operating with their strike group and then they are certified at the end of that period of workups. We have no workup period with our escorts; we just go out and do it."

Essex ESG departed Sasebo, Japan for its annual spring patrol throughout the Western Pacific region, Jan 24.

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76; the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF-76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa with an operating detachment in Sasebo.

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