USS Essex
USS Essex Departs for Western Pacific Patrol
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Greg Johnson
USS ESSEX, At sea (Jan. 25, 2011) – The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan Jan. 25 for a patrol throughout the Western Pacific region.

The deployment will feature a series of bilateral maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between U.S. and Asian-Pacific partner nations throughout the region.

“As Essex is permanently forward-deployed, she has the unique ability to continuously engage and exercise with partners and allies in the Western Pacific, as well as forge new relationships with nations with whom we have operated less frequently,” said Capt. David Fluker, Essex’ commanding officer. “While Essex’ schedule is always filled with such opportunities, she remains always ready to respond to crises in the region, whether it be assisting in relief efforts following a natural disaster, offering humanitarian assistance or reassuring our friends in support of treaties or national objectives.”

During the deployment, Essex and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit will participate in exercise Cobra Gold 2011, an annual U.S.-Thailand co-sponsored joint coalition exercise designed to ensure regional peace and stability.

In addition to the exercise, the deployment will also serve as a first for many of Essex’ newest Sailors, many of which will enjoy their first taste of life underway.

“I’m really looking forward to a couple of things, like the opportunity to learn my job and having a chance to visit all of the ports that I hear we’re going to,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Rachel Walker, of Miami. “It sounds really exciting.”

For Fluker, who assumed command of Essex Jan. 20, the deployment will be his first as the ship’s commanding officer. He served as Essex’s executive officer for 18 months before taking command.

“I look forward to continuing to work with this remarkable team. I am constantly inspired with the dedication and unmatched flexibility that the Sailors and Marines of Essex demonstrate,” he said.

Essex is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is underway in the Western Pacific region.

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