By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karen Blankenship, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs
USS Tortuga, At Sea - Sailors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), along with Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), completed a certification exercise (CERTEX) while on deployment in the Western Pacific Sept. 24.
CERTEX is a two week long exercise that focuses on the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st MEU's ability to complete missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or non-combatant evacuation missions.
"This exercise is important for the MEU because it's the one opportunity to ensure that we're working together to meet our requirements," said Lt. Col. O.J. Randall, commander of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 with the 31st MEU. "Being able to successfully complete the certification means the work-ups and all of the pre-deployment training we have done is valid and successful."
Some of the evolutions during CERTEX included visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training, security exercises and non-combatant evacuation and humanitarian assistance simulations.
Soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) also worked alongside Marines from the 31st MEU during the exercise.
"It was a great opportunity to prove that the MEU works well with the Navy and that we have the ability to work well with other nations," said Randall. "It shows us the strength of the US-Japanese partnership, which has been in existence for a very long time."
Joint exercises like CERTEX demonstrate the enhanced capability of U.S. and Japanese forces which promotes interoperability by focusing on theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
CERTEX gives the ARG and the 31st MEU the opportunity to practice in a combined and joint environment and is designed to increase both units' effectiveness.
Tortuga is part of the forward-deployed Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is currently operating the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.