Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1, the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) returned to their respective homeports following the completion of an amphibious squadron (PHIBRON)-MEU Integrated Training (PMINT) off the coast of Southern California, April 5.
As the first fully integrated training period between Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th MEU, PMINT honed the Navy-Marine team’s abilities to plan and conduct exercises in maritime security operations, crisis response capability and forward naval presence over the course of three phases.
“Our biggest success was validating that we, as a Navy-Marine Corps team, can plan and execute complex missions together,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Blalock, executive officer, 13th MEU.
Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 41) form the Essex ARG.
During the first phase of PMINT, Sailors and Marines worked together to safely embark the 13th MEU's aircraft, vehicles, material and personnel throughout the three ships.
The second and longest phase was integrated training. This phase included exercises and drills in air defense, land air assaults, anti-piracy, communications, boarding, planning and execution, standard operating procedures and testing of equipment.
"I am humbled by the dedication, flexibility and attention to detail the Iron Gator team demonstrated throughout PMINT," said Capt. Brian Mutty, Essex executive officer. "From the start, the 13th MEU seamlessly integrated with the ESSEX ARG team, we trained like we will fight and our mission readiness has never been stronger."
The final phase was debarkation, and involved off-loading embarked personnel, aircraft, watercraft and vehicles from the Essex ARG.
The Essex ARG and 13th MEU will be the first stateside amphibious force deploying with the F-35B, and PMINT marked the first pre-deployment training exercise that fully integrated the increased capabilities of the Lightning II.
“It is not an easy task to integrate thousands of Marines and Sailors spread across three ships,” said Capt. Gerald Olin, Commander, PHIBRON 1. “From planning to execution, PMINT proves that the Anchorage, Essex, Rushmore and 13th MEU team is ready to operate our well decks and flight decks across all of our ships. We set the conditions for success and now we are ready to apply the lessons we have learned in the next phase of deployment certification.”
After the successful completion of PMINT, the ships of the Essex ARG and the 13th MEU will continue their work-up cycle during ARG and MEU Exercise (ARG-MEUEX) and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), both designed to certify the Blue-Green team for its upcoming regularly scheduled deployment in mid-2018.
The 13th MEU is commanded by Col. Chandler Nelms and consists of the Command Element; the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211; the Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 3/1 (Reinforced); and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 13.
Essex ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). During deployment they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1, the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.