By MC2 Dennis Grube, USS Makin Island Public Affairs
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys take off from the flight deck of USS Makin Island (LHD 8) during operations in the South China Sea, April 12. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Devin M. Langer) >>
PACIFIC OCEAN - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provided a vital array of amphibious capabilities to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations during a month-long stay in theater.
The 4,500 Sailors and Marines of the ARG-MEU conducted maritime security operations and partnership building throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific to preserve the free flow of commerce in the region and promote international cooperation. The Navy-Marine Corps team also participated in bilateral engagements which strengthened military relations with partner nations and enhanced regional stability.
Capt. Mike Crary, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5, said the team's deployment to the region brought a critical capability to a dynamic operating environment.
"The ARG-MEU team brings a range of capabilities to any region. During month six of our deployment, we entered 7th Fleet at the top of our game, trained and equipped to perform everything from combat operations and maritime security missions to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts," said Crary. "As a forward deployed contingency-response force, we provided operational flexibility for our 7th Fleet commanders."
The ARG-MEU team worked closely with foreign nations during their time in the Pacific to maintain strong relationships, proficiency and readiness.
During their final international port visit to Hong Kong, Makin Island and embarked Marines hosted a reception aboard the ship for foreign dignitaries and distinguished guests. The crew also gave back to the community by spending time with students from several local schools and giving ship tours to local students and Boy Scouts, while experiencing Hong Kong's rich culture firsthand.
"Our time in 7th Fleet was very relevant and much of what our team accomplished will have long-lasting, positive impacts on this region," said Capt. Mark Melson, Makin Island's commanding officer. "The importance of the partnerships our Sailors and Marines enhanced here can not be overstated, and their contributions to those relationships will remain long after our deployment is done."
The Sailors and Marines aboard Comstock also trained alongside members of the Sri Lankan Navy in an effort to exchange expertise in a range of topics which improved communication and coordination between U.S. and Sri Lankan forces, built mutual warfighting capability and supported long-term regional cooperation.
Comstock also visited Port Moresby to conduct activities and training that enhanced the Papua New Guinea Defense Force's support to civil authority operations, which include entry control and vehicle check points, escalation of force tactics, personnel searches, urban patrolling and VIP escorts.
"Training with partner militaries enables both forces to better understand how one another operate, and helps ensure we can fight effectively together toward a common objective," said Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer, 11th MEU. "You can surge military personnel, equipment and vehicles, but you can't surge trust. That only comes from working side-by-side and shared experiences of tough, realistic training."
The Southern California-based Makin Island ARG/11th MEU is underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations, returning from a seven-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East.