SOUTH CHINA SEA -- The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (BOXARG), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), began participation in Exercise Ssang Yong 2014 March 27 off the coast of the Republic of Korea (ROK) with the ROK Navy and Marine Corps.
Ssang Yong, which means “twin dragons,” is an annual combined exercise conducted by Navy and Marine forces with the ROK in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across the range of military operations, to include disaster relief to complex, expeditionary operations.
BOXARG joins the exercise at the seventh month of an extended deployment, after participating in multiple theater security cooperation exercises and military exchanges in the 5th and 7th fleet area of responsibilities.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team and their performance during this exercise,” said Commander, Amphibious Squadron 1, Capt. Malcolm Potts. “Getting to work with our Korean military partners, the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (BHR), the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Expeditionary Strike Group 7 provides an incredible training opportunity greatly enhancing our ability to conduct amphibious operations.”
The exercise is led by U.S. Marines and Sailors of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and from Commander, Task Force 76 (CTF 76).
This year’s exercise involves more personnel and equipment than previous years and poses challenges that have not been encountered in years prior. The exercise is the largest scale combined amphibious exercise in its history, incorporating more than 13,630 U.S. and ROK Navy-Marine and Australian Army forces, which effectively demonstrates the unique abilities of a forward-deployed Marine air-ground task force. Approximately 20 ROK and U.S. Navy ships, including the BOXARG and BHR, and more than 55 U.S. Marine aircraft are supporting the amphibious landings.
“This size operation does not happen all the time, so there are many unit level to strategic level ideas and methods that we want to test to see if they will work,” said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Menzies, plans officer for Tactical Air Squadron (TACRON) 11, which is currently embarked within BOXARG. “BOXARG would like to first and foremost ensure we do everything safely. Next, we want to make sure that we are integrating well with not only other U.S. units and organizations but also the ROK forces. “
Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, commander, CTF 76, said that the exercise is a significant opportunity for the U.S. and its regional partners. "The ROK-U.S. Alliance remains committed to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," said Wetherald. "This exercise demonstrates how the Navy and Marine Corps amphibious team is equipped and organized to carry out these national objectives in cooperation with our international partners."
Ssang Yong is intended to exercise amphibious capabilities of each nation's Navy and Marine Corps, while enhancing the interoperability between the U.S. Marine air-ground task force and the ROK Marine task force. All of the U.S. Marine aircraft on U.S. ships are under the responsibility of the 13th MEU.
Menzies described how communications between multilateral forces plays an integral role in large scale exercises. “With this many units and so many ships and aircraft, it takes a lot of communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Since this is an exercise with partners who do not speak English as their primary language, how we communicate becomes even more important so that everything is clear to all participants,” said Menzies
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team possesses a unique ability to come together with partner nations, conduct expeditionary planning, and execute amphibious operations. “This exercise is challenging but at the same time a great learning tool for everyone,” said Menzies.