SAN DIEGO - Sailors and Marines assigned to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) returned to San Diego Aug. 22 following completion of a 12-day PHIBRON-MEU integrated training (PMINT) cycle off the coast of southern California.
During the Aug. 10-22 underway period, amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), the command ship for PHIBRON 5 and the 11th MEU, operated with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) for the first of a three-phase certification process to test the ARG's mission readiness.
"This is an opportunity for PHIBRON 5, the Makin Island ARG, and the Pride of the Pacific - the 11th MEU - to integrate for the first time as an ARG and practice our amphibious tactics, techniques, and procedures together before we move to the next phase in training," said Capt. Humberto L. Quintanilla II, PHIBRON 5 commander. "We'll move on to the next phase drilled to execute more complicated missions that are going to come to us from the exercise cells."
Quintanilla said while the upcoming deployment will be Makin Island's maiden deployment, PMINT wasn't the first time the Sailors aboard Makin Island have worked with the Marines.
"One of the keys to our success has been that the ARG-MEU leadership team on Makin Island has been together before," said Quintanilla. "We participated in San Francisco Fleet Week last fall together. It was the first time we had ever come together, and we quickly recognized we could work very well together - we could do this. We're melted together, and that all started last fall."
During PMINT, Sailors and Marines in the ARG trained together to prepare for a wide-spectrum of amphibious warfare operations, including amphibious landings, flight operations, boarding vessels, and humanitarian missions.
"We're the staff that is tasked to put the big plan together with the MEU and ensure that we project power where national command authority wants us to," said Quintanilla. "It's the PHIBRON and MEU team together that goes overseas-or wherever we're needed-to do military missions, and, I'm proud to say, humanitarian missions as well."
"We train for both, we are equipped for both, and our people are ready to execute both when we finish our training cycle," added Quintanilla.
Quintanilla said that one unique challenge the Makin Island ARG faced during PMINT was dealing with an unusually hazy August sky.
"The team had to really hunker down and make sure our operational risk management was there to support the aviation ops, as well as the surface ops," said Quintanilla. "Whereas we were expecting clear weather, that's not what we got everyday, but we were able to complete the mission by intensifying our planning to ensure that no safety or mission critical steps were missed."
In addition to amphibious warfare operations, Sailors and Marines also worked together to successfully execute basic daily operations such as ship's laundry and preparing meals in the galley.
"When we go into this galley, there's no 'blue' or 'green,' we're all one team," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Maximino Salvador, galley watch captain aboard Makin Island. "Working with the Marines is an incredible experience; you see the blue and the green-side work together as a team."
While it may have been the first time working in a joint environment for many young Sailors and Marines, the two sea services demonstrated their professional interoperability.
"All-in-all we get along, follow the same rules and it all works out," said Marine Cpl. David McParland, who worked in Makin Island's galley, but is assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268. "It's a great experience."
The Makin Island ARG will continue its training cycle over the next few months leading up to regularly scheduled deployment later this fall.
Commissioned in 2009, Makin Island is the Navy's newest Wasp-class amphibious assault ship capable of utilizing surface and air assets to move Marine forces ashore. The ship is named in honor of the daring World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, Second Raider Battalion, on Japanese held Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name "USS Makin Island."