Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Casey H. Kyhl
At sea – The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESX ARG) will participate in the integrated joint training exercise Valiant Shield 2010 (VS 10) Sept. 12-21 off the coast of the island nation of Palau and ending in Guam.
“The main purpose of Valiant Shield is to take a large number of forces and seamlessly combine them together to complete a goal,” said Capt. Richard Clemmons, commander of Destroyer Squadron 31 and the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group sea combat commander for VS 10. “Smooth integration with other services means real-time maritime power.”
“Joint interoperability is crucial for everything from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to armed conflict,” said Clemmons. “Completing this exercise successfully will further prepare us for any contingency that may occur. We are committed to maintaining regional stability and positioned to respond when needed.”
The exercise is designed to enable real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces’ ability to locate, track and engage units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace in response to a range of missions.
“Valiant Shield will be an extremely valuable training experience for all involved,” said Capt. Mark E. Weber, commander, Amphibious Task Group 76.4. “Without regular training, important skills can dull. Being able to work with other U.S. forces will help us keep our sharp edge.”
Assets from the forward-deployed George Washington Carrier Strike Group, ESX ARG and 13th Air Force Expeditionary Wing will participate along with other air, surface and subsurface components from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
Because U.S. forces may be called to conduct any number of operations with little notice, VS 10 will include training to enhance command and control, maritime interdiction, defensive counter-air, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, and personnel recovery.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), with more than 2,200 Marines assigned is composed of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element. These elements are the striking arm of the ESX ARG and enable amphibious operations from the sea and power projection ashore.
“The 31st MEU does not operate without Amphibious Squadron Eleven and PHIBRON-11 doesn’t operate without us,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer and commander of the landing forces. “This is a great chance for our team to work together and do what we do best.”
The 31st MEU will employ AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft and CH-53E Sea Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, AH-1W Super Cobra, and UH-1N Huey helicopters to execute various air operations.
“This exercise required a huge amount of planning and coordination,” said Capt. Troy L. Hart, Essex’s commanding officer. “Multiple ship classes, different missions, three service branches -Valiant Shield represents what the U.S. military is capable of in the Pacific.”
Upon completion of VS 10, the permanently forward-deployed ESX ARG, along with the 31st MEU will continue on patrol in the Western Pacific region.
The ESX ARG is led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) Eleven and is also composed of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), and the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).