CORAL SEA - Sailors and Marines assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) participated in a helicopter assault training exercise 20 and 21 July during the biennial multi-national exercise Talisman Saber 2013.
Over a 2-day period, more than six Navy and Marine aircraft conducted flight operations during the two-day event, which included Navy SH-60 Sea Hawks from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, and Marine UH-1Y Venoms, AH-1W Super Cobras, MV-22 Ospreys, as well as over 400 Marine ground troops attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
"The Island Knights helicopter squadron provides the expeditionary strike group with a remarkably flexible and lethal war fighting capability," said Capt. Cathal O'Connor, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. "They support the entire kill chain: intelligence collection, surveillance and reconnaissance, airborne command and control, and all-weather delivery of personnel and precision ordnance. They are a true force-multiplier for this Blue-Green [Navy-Marine Corps] team."
The purpose of the helicopter assault is to establish a force on a hostile shore, with the intent to introduce additional follow-on forces. The air assault exercise is intended to reinforce the skills necessary for the air and ground combat elements to do just that.
"The exercise as a whole tests our ability to organize, deploy, and control men and equipment during a simulated war," said Lt. Brian Cramer, participating SH-60 Sea Hawk pilot attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25. "The entire evolution was supported by rotary wing assets. [Rotary wing assets] can put Marines on the ground at a specific location for an assault, support them, and then extract all of them after the mission is accomplished."
SH-60 Sea Hawks serve as an over-watch for the operation by gathering intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance, and disseminating that information to ground troops.
"[Piloting the Sea Hawk], I park at high altitude and observe what's happening on the ground," said Cramer. "I can call out any sort of hazards or enemy troop movements that might be occurring so the mission commanders can take appropriate action."
The air assault is just one of the training evolutions the Bonhomme Richard ESG is completing during Talisman Saber, an exercise which enhances multilateral collaboration between U.S. and Australian forces for future combined operations, humanitarian assistance, and natural disaster response.
The Island Knights of HSC 25 are under the command of Capt. Cathal O'Connor, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 who reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, the ESG commander for exercise Talisman Saber 2013