FILE PHOTO. SAN DIEGO (Dec. 10, 2013) The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) departs Naval Base San Diego for sea trials and engineering drills following a 13-month maintenance availability.  Makin Island was the first amphibious assault ship built with a hybrid-electric propulsion system that provides significant savings in fuel costs for the U.S. Navy.  (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan/Released)
Makin Island ARG 'Manned and Ready' 
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks, Amphibious Squadron 5 and USS Makin Island Public Affairs 
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) returned to San Diego, June 23, after completing a near two week Certification Exercise (CERTEX) in preparation for a scheduled deployment.

CERTEX is a comprehensive, complex training evolution that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and sea-to-shore capabilities challenging Sailors and Marines to carry out a variety of operations that mirror real-life scenarios.

"A successful CERTEX provides us with the ability to say that we are ready to answer our nation's call," said Capt. Victor Cooper, the commodore of the ARG and commander of Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 5. "It certifies that all of the vastly different components that make up our team can come together and form a stronger and more complete unit to accomplish any task within our scope of capabilities."

Operations included various amphibious operations and ship-to-shore movements, combat rubber raiding craft drills, day and night flight operations, mass casualty drills, damage control preparations, communication emission exercises, weapons familiarization training and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises.

"The Sailors and Marines with the ARG and the 11th MEU have done a fantastic job getting us to this point and are nothing short of impressive," said Cooper. "Their devotion to duty and ability to overcome any obstacles are truly inspirational and provide the nation with a level of competency and motivation that I am proud to be a part of."

The Makin Island ARG includes the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), and dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45).

The ARG departed its homeport in San Diego, June 10, to kick off CERTEX, the last stage of work-ups before their upcoming deployment.

Now that the exercise is completed and the ARG has evaluated mission readiness as a unit, many Sailors and Marines are confident in their ability to respond and react to the nation's needs.

"It has been a great event, integrating both the green and blue sides and building relationships that will carry us throughout deployment." said Capt. John Menoni, San Diego's commanding officer.

The upcoming deployment will be the second for Makin Island and San Diego's first since being commissioned in May, 2012 and the first deployment with all three ships together as a team with the 11th MEU.

USS Makin Island Commanding Officer Capt. Alvin Holsey said the Sailors and Marines aboard his ship have more than proven themselves during the exercise.

"Up and down the chain of command, each Sailor and Marine has performed extremely well during CERTEX," Holsey said. "Everyone had a role to play and they clearly proved that the ARG/MEU team is ready to deploy."

Cooper echoes Holsey's sentiments on combat readiness.

"We have shown our ability to execute advanced scenarios that demonstrate our capabilities as a unified team," said Cooper. "Whether it is counter-piracy efforts, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, combat, or anything else the combatant commander needs, we are ready."

COMPHIBRON 5 reports to Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, homeported in San Diego.
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