OKINAWA, Japan - Dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) arrived in Okinawa, Japan Sept. 11 to offload the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), wrapping up her three-month patrol with the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
Germantown completed an array of exercises and events throughout her patrol, which began June 17, that culminated in the bi-annual, multinational, joint-force exercise Talisman Saber 2013, and the certification exercise (CERTEX) with the embarked 31st MEU.
Both Talisman Saber and CERTEX are complex joint-force operations that combine Navy and Marine Corps maritime sea-to-shore capabilities with those of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) — a relationship that serves as a cornerstone of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
"The Sailors and Marines assigned to Germantown did exceptionally well with these high-profile, demanding exercises," said Cmdr. Jason R. Leach, commanding officer of Germantown. "Germantown's cooperation with our Australian partners is indicative of the strength of the U.S.-Australian friendship and our commitment to maritime security and stability."
Germantown made two ports of call in Australia: Darwin, where her crew volunteered their free time to the community service program, "Life Without Barriers," a national charitable organization for children and young people with disabilities; and Cairns, where the Germantown crew volunteered at downtown Base Hospital, bringing smiles and hope to the patients there.
"The crew of Germantown genuinely enjoyed donating their time off to our Australia partners in Darwin and Cairns," said Lt. Robert Hecox, chaplain assigned to Germantown. "These volunteer opportunities are all about nourishing our U.S.-Australian friendship to support our common goal of maintaining peace and stability in the area."
During the multi-national combined, joint-force exercise Talisman Saber, Germantown, along with the flagship of the ARG, amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the RAN ship HMAS Choules (LSD 100), launched a massive simulated beach assault July 20 and 21, consisting of amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), landing craft air cushion (LCAC), landing craft utility (LCU) beach landings onto the Australian shore. All said, more than 400 U.S. Marines and 200 Australian troops were air and surface transported to the simulated combat area.
Talisman Saber wrapped up Aug. 5, when U.S. and Australian forces completed all their air, land, and sea objectives.
"Talisman Saber is one of the largest combined joint exercises that the Navy does," said Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, commander, Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet. "We work with our Australian partners and allies to hone our war fighting skills and to create interoperability that we can utilize in the future, whether that's war fighting, or humanitarian assistance with disaster relief, or anything across the spectrum of maritime activity."
After Talisman Saber, Germantown completed a weeklong certification exercise (CERTEX) with the 31st MEU. CERTEX is a comprehensive, complex training evolution that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and sea-to-shore capabilities, and is routinely conducted to maintain fleet readiness. It focuses on disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and non-combatant evacuation by way of air and amphibious operations with the ARG. "CERTEX was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the interoperability Germantown achieved with the 31st MEU and our Australian partners during Talisman Saber," said Lt. Kyle Hiscock, operations officer assigned to Germantown.
For the crew of Germantown, the patrol was not only an opportunity to shine in the international spotlight during high-visibility operations; it was an opportunity to enrich their Navy careers. CREW QUAL STATS, AWARDS, ETC.
"Not only did the crew of Germantown get the job done during this patrol with practiced excellence, but they also maximized their underway opportunities by growing their careers as Sailors," said Leach. "It fills me with pride knowing that, no matter what the task, the Sailors aboard Germantown get it done." Germantown is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, commanded by Capt. Cathal O'Connor, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11 and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.