OKINAWA, Japan – Sailors from USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) join USS Essex (LHD 2) pier side at White Beach Naval Installation on March 2, to load equipment and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
After embarking, the 31st MEU and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will work together to certify the blue-green team in a variety of skill sets across the spectrum of amphibious operations. Some of these skill areas include non-combatant evacuations, amphibious landings, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The certification process gives the Essex ARG and 31st MEU the opportunity to practice their skill sets in a combined and joint environment and is designed to increase both unit’s effectiveness.
"It is always exciting working alongside our Navy counterparts," said Col. Andrew R. MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer. "The blue and green team did an excellent job executing the loading plan in a safe and timely manner. Now we can move on to working together in order to successfully complete AIT and CERTEX."
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) will also participate in CERTEX when they arrive in Okinawa later in the month. Bonhomme Richard is in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to participate in a Western Pacific patrol and conduct a hull swap with Essex.
"Certification exercises are important to ensure that our Sailors and Marines have the skills required to perform at a level expected of a forward deployed ARG," said Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, commander of Task Force 76. "It also provides a key opportunity for our staffs to work with Bonhomme Richard before the crews exchange ships."
Hull swaps are a part of the U.S. Navy’s long-range forward-deployed Naval force plan to maintain a continuous highly capable ARG forward presence in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility. After the hull swap and exchange of command, Bonhomme Richard will replace Essex as the Navy’s forward-deployed helicopter landing dock amphibious assault ship and flagship of Commander, Task Force 76.