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ESG 1 Arrives “Down Under”

By Lt. Ron Flanders, Expeditionary Strike Group 1 Public Affairs

DARWIN, Australia (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1 arrived in Australia Aug. 15 for training, liberty and a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of World War II's victory in the Pacific with their Australian allies.

The strike group’s flagship, USS Tarawa (LHA 1), amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD 7) and dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) pulled into the Northern Territory port of Darwin with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (Special Operations Capable) embarked. The 13th MEU immediately departed the ships and headed inland for sustainment training. Meanwhile, the frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61) tied up in the Western Australia port of Broome. All told, the four ships and ‘The Fighting 13th,’ brought 4,000 Sailors and Marines to Australia’s “Top End.”

The ships’ arrival in Darwin, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of VJ Day and a ceremony at Darwin’s Cenotaph War Memorial, afforded the Sailors and Marines an opportunity to pay homage to the bravery and sacrifices of the citizens of Darwin and other Australians during World War II. The strong alliance between Australia and the United States was galvanized the morning of Feb. 19, 1942, when Japanese bombers attacked Darwin Harbour, killing hundreds, including 91 Sailors from USS Peary (DD 226).

Rear Adm. Michael A. LeFever, commander, ESG-1 attended the ceremony with ESG-1’s senior leadership, and laid a wreath on the monument on behalf of the United States.

“We are deeply honored to commemorate this moment in history with our Australian friends,” said Commodore Dennis DuBard, commander of Amphibious Squadron 1. “It is a date we celebrate every year in the States, but to be here in Darwin celebrating with our allies makes it even more special.”

When they were not paying homage to those who made the sacrifice before them, the Sailors were enjoying libery in a country that has long been a favorite.

Hundreds of ESG-1 Sailors and Marines filled the area’s hotels and signed up for unique Morale, Welfare and Recreation tours, including a chance to see jumping crocodiles and wildlife that can be seen only in Australia.

“It’s a very nice place,” said Air Traffic Controlman Airman Apprentice Brandon Timmer, of Tarawa. “I am thrilled to go out and see the sights and get a chance to meet the Australian people.”

Australian Defense Force service members and Marines from the 13th MEU(SOC) will join their Navy counterparts for much-deserved liberty in Darwin upon completion of their training on the ranges.

Expeditionary Strike Group 1 consists of more than 5,500 Sailors and Marines embarked aboard six ships and a submarine. Centered around the mobility and flexibility of the Amphibious Squadron 1 ships Tarawa, Pearl Harbor and Cleveland and the proven striking power of the 13th MEU(SOC), ESG-1 also adds the capabilities of Ingraham, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65), guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), and the fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe (SSN 763). ESG-1 can conduct operations across the spectrum of warfare or humanitarian operations.

ESG-1 is currently assigned to Task Force 76 and is deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

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