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Nimitz and Essex Strike Groups complete Expeditionary Strike Force training

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080317-12
Release Date: 3/17/2008 3:42:00 PM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Ty Swartz, USS Essex Public Affairs and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander Ameen, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) conducted an Expeditionary Strike Force (ESF) exercise with the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) March 14-16.

The ESF training brought together the two strike groups to test their ability to plan and conduct multitask operations across a broad spectrum of naval disciplines.

"This training provided us the opportunity to refresh our skills in executing complex missions that require capabilities broader in scope than those provided by an individual strike group," said Rear Adm. Terry Blake, commander, Carrier Strike Group 11. "Successfully completing these training exercises ensures the ESF is ready to operate effectively as a joint maritime force to satisfy the broad array of 7th Fleet missions."

One of the benefits of ESF training is the preparation that it provides both strike groups.

"This enhances our ability in the future where a situation may come up and we're both deployed to the same area and we've practiced together," said Lt. Ryan Tashma, an operations officer from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, embarked aboard Nimitz. "There are things [the Essex ESG] do differently, and things we do differently from them. The fact that we get to exercise together now gives us the ability to interact in the future more seamlessly."

Participating in ESF training tests the ability of the participating ships to operate in a complex environment and hone their maritime skills. Consistent and continuous training allows the U.S. 7th Fleet to maintain readiness to accomplish assigned missions.

"Whether it's the type of capabilities that a Carrier Strike Group brings or the type of capabilities - which really is our Marines, Harriers, and helicopters - that an Expeditionary Strike Group brings, ESF training enhances our ability to operate effectively as a joint maritime force in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility," said Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, commander, Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet.

The ESF training event was scheduled many months ago in order to coincide with the Nimitz CSG deployment to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Essex ESG is on their spring patrol deployment and recently completed Exercise Balikatan 2008 with the Republic of the Philippines.

The two strike groups took advantage of their time together by practicing basic flight maneuvering, air defense and surface support mission exercises.

"We do close-air support exercises as well that simulate real world scenarios the ship may encounter," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Garcia, Carrier Air Wing 11 strike officer.

Coordinating the large number of ships and aircraft involved in the ESF exercise was a true "team effort," Tashma said.

"There were weeks of planning by the strike group staff, DESRON staff, ship's company, the air wing and [operations officers] from the different ships," Tashma said. "One of the big issues is, you've got our aircraft and you've got their aircraft and not a whole lot of actual air space. You have to really plan to make sure everyone's on the same page."

During Exercise Talisman Saber 2007, the Essex ESG worked with the Kitty Hawk CSG and the Australian navy, improving interoperability between the CSG and ESG as well as between the United States and Australia.

"Training that we do as an ESF is nothing new, it's training that we do each year," said Capt. Anthony Pachuta, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11.

This ESF exercise is the first for the Essex ESG since it began operating under the Navy's new guidelines for expeditionary strike groups, but it is the second multi-strike group training for the Nimitz CSG in less than a year. Last year the Nimitz CSG joined the Bonhomme Richard and the John C. Stennis Strike Groups to conduct ESF training in the Persian Gulf.

The Nimitz CSG is comprised of Commander, CSG 11, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz; its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11; embarked DESRON 23; the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59); the guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Higgins (DDG 76), and USS Chafee (DDG 90); Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 "Scorpions," HSL-37 "Easy Riders"; and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.

CVW-11's squadrons include the "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, the "Black Aces" of VFA-41, the "Sunliners" of VFA-81, the "Wallbangers" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117, the "Red Devils" of Marine Corps Strike Fighter Squadron 232, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Warfare Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6.

The Nimitz CSG departed on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment Jan. 24.

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. ESG and serves as the flagship for Combined Task Force 76; the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF-76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan with an operating detachment in Sasebo.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit

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