USS ESSEX, At Sea (Jan. 31, 2009) – --
The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) completed the on-load of more than 2,000 Marines and sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) Jan. 29.
The 31st MEU embarked Essex as part of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESX ESG) to take part in the Strike Group’s annual Spring Patrol throughout East and Southeast Asia.
“As always, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to again work with the 31st MEU,” said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex’s commanding officer. “We have a great Navy and Marine Corps team here in the Western Pacific and our well established coordination is the key factor to our continued mission success.”
The 31st MEU consists of command, ground, air and combat support elements that allow ESX ESG to conduct amphibious operations from the sea and project power ashore.
In addition to the personnel, ship’s Combat Cargo and the MEU embark team moved approximately 200 vehicles and 500 pieces of MEU cargo across all three ships. They also helped move elements of the MEU’s Ground Combat Element, Aviation Combat Element (ACE) and Logistics Combat Element.
In preparation, the MEU repaired, refitted and transferred 23 aircraft. Their extensive arsenal includes CH-53E Sea Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, AH-1Z Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters, as well as AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft.
“We prepared the same way we usually do,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. John Nagy, maintenance chief for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU.
This is Nagy’s fifth deployment aboard Essex.
“Every deployment on the Essex is always good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to some good training over these first couple of weeks, getting shipboard qualifications and ensuring everyone’s up to speed.”
During the Spring Patrol, Essex and MEU units will conduct numerous training events that will focus on a variety of sea and land-based capabilities. Marines and sailors onboard Essex will also be able to experience foreign ports as well as interact with the local communities.
Essex sailors and 31st MEU Marines are currently scheduled to participate in community relation projects while in Thailand. Activities will include minor repair work, cleaning, painting and spending personal time with the children.
“It’s a really fulfilling experience,” said Lance Cpl. Rian Gill, who participated in a community service project at Ban Bang Lamnung last May, while embarked onboard the forward-deployed amphibious transport dock ship USS Juneau (LPD 10). “Projects like that are really cool. You get to see up close and personal how people of different cultures live.”
For others, this deployment will be their first taste of life underway.
“I’m really excited about the whole experience,” said Lance Corporal Ouis Chavez, of Hamilton City, Calif., “I’ve heard so many stories about the ports this ship goes to.”
The 31st MEU is the only permanently forward-deployed MEU, maintaining a presence in the Pacific Ocean at all times as part of III Marine Expeditionary Force, and is based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
Essex is commanded by Capt. Brent Canady and is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy’s forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.