U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – Located on the 06 level of the island and, nestled among other important command and control spaces, lie the Joint Operations Center (JOC) and Tactical Air Control Center (TACC).
These cool, blue-lit spaces are laden with charts, projector screens and a variety of phones, radio sets, and computers. Referred to as the JOC and TACC, they are the nerve center for commanding and controlling the ships, aircraft, and landing craft of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
Officer and enlisted watch standers of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Three (COMPHIBRON Three) and Tactical Control Squadron 11 (TACRON) join forces to command and control various aspects of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The PHIBRON Three staff, compromised of approximately 100 Sailors and Marines when deployed, manages the overall tactics and operations of the group’s ships and their day-to-day employment.
Peleliu ARG consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) in addition to other teams and detachments.
In addition to providing direction to units with the ARG, the COMPHIBRON Three staff collaborates directly with higher commands to ensure the missions of the ARG are consistent with the Fleet Commanders priorities and objectives. For example, while deployed to the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility, the Peleliu ARG falls under the control of Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group FIVE in Bahrain, who in turn reports to the Commander of Fifth Fleet. “We are the link to higher authorities who are giving guidance to the ARG, such as missions and specific operations,” said Capt. Shawn Lobree, commander, Amphibious Squadron Three. “We are on-call to answer any kind of tasking that may come, ranging from humanitarian missions to combat operations.”
The PHIBRON coordinates with the expeditionary strike groups to tackle challenges that units within the ARG may experience and overcome during deployment.
“We recently had a malfunction where we needed to coordinate with ESG 5 to get a technical representative on board,” said Master Chief Electronics Technician Daniel Shuksta, Amphibious Squadron Three Senior Enlisted Advisor and Electronics Material Officer. “I am the liaison between the ships in the ARG and shore facilities so I can get broken equipment repaired.”
There are several advantages in having a deployable staff on board Peleliu.
“There is nothing like having a staff on scene riding in the ships who are familiar with the crews, the issues and challenges they are facing,” said Lobree. “The human dimension and interaction makes it a lot easier for the ship and the staff to function together as a team.”
The JOC acts as the primary command and control watch station. Watch standers track, plot and identify units that can affect elements of the ARG. The TACC manages long range air control of aircraft assigned to or visiting Peleliu.
Staff members man several watch stations including intelligence, force surface and air watch officer, maritime interdiction (counter-piracy), and amphibious warfare.
The combat cargo officer and combat cargo assistant add to the PHIBRON team as well. Combat Cargo tracks logistics and ship-to-shore movements for the ARG.
When Peleliu ARG is not on the move, the staff is still hard at work in port.
“In between deployments we work very hard,” said Lobree. “We typically have staff members all over the waterfront and sometimes out of town or overseas supporting exercises or other operations.”
During yard periods, the staff helps manage basic phase training and maintenance availabilities by ensuring resources are in place to affect repairs and upgrades.
Lobree noted 10-15 years ago there used to be two types of amphibious squadrons: a tactics-based squadron and a maintenance-based squadron. Several years ago, they re-aligned into one linear squadron that now shares both responsibilities.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Lobree. “We get to see the fruits of our labor, helping [the ships] get from the maintenance phase all the way through deployment.”
Peleliu is the flagship for Peleliu ARG and, with the embarked 15th MEU, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.