SAN DIEGO - The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to San Diego Sept. 16 after completing a 16-day Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) off the coast of Southern California.
The training was another first for the Sailors and Marines assigned to the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship.
"This is part of our first work-up for our first deployment, and I have been completely impressed at the level of execution and precision with which Team Raider has performed," said Capt. Jim Landers, Makin Island's commanding officer.
Landers said COMPTUEX gives units of the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group a chance to address operational challenges they may face during deployment.
Some of the tasks Sailors practiced included mass casualty and general quarter drills, flight deck operations, well deck operations, battle scenarios, a replenishment-at-sea evolution with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202), and a fueling-at-sea exercise with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).
Marines serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's ground combat element honed their skills both ashore in combat scenarios and aboard Makin Island for training. One exercise included sliding 35-feet down onto the ship's elevator utilizing a thick, plaited rope rigged to a parked helicopter on the flight deck.
The training simulated a technique for inserting a company-sized force into an objective area.
"When we're inserting by air - in six or eight aircraft - fast-roping from helicopters is the answer if we encounter a fouled (landing zone), be it debris or obstacles, or we're restricted from landing in an urban environment," said 1st Lt. Matthew Astphan, Company I executive officer. "And if we're proficient enough, it's actually faster to rope down into multiple sites without the pilots having to land."
The successful completion of COMPTUEX means that the ARG is ready to begin the Certification Exercise (CERTEX), the final test before deployment.
"Based on what I've observed across both the crew of Makin Island, the rest of the ARG and the execution of the MEU, I have absolutely no reservations about 100 percent success in CERTEX," said Landers.
Makin Island is named in honor of the World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name "USS Makin Island."