Ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) departed Okinawa, Japan March 19 after embarking more than 2,300 Marines and equipment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The ESG and the MEU are now deployed together for a routine patrol in the Indo-Pacific region meant to strengthen regional alliances and be postured forward in the event of a contingency.
“Once again the ARG [Amphibious Ready Group]-MEU team has come together as a well synchronized force to embark the MEU and deploy,” said Capt. Ed Thompson, Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11, the squadron overseeing the ESG. “The persistent nature of the close relationship of the ARG and the 31st MEU is our core competency. Having the MEU embarked enables our ships to be fully mission ready.”
The Okinawa-based 31st MEU has the capability of conducting a wide variety missions from a sea base such as an amphibious assault, airfield seizure, embassy reinforcement, evacuation of non-combatants, and disaster relief.
As part of the initial phase of the patrol, the ships of the ESG and the MEU will practice these missions to ensure proficiency and integration in working together.
For the first time, the 31st MEU will conduct its missions utilizing the F-35B Lighting II, which flew aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) on March 5. The fifth-generation aircraft can support precision strike, close-air-support for Marines inserted inland, and relay over-the-horizon information to aid the commander’s battlefield awareness.
“The members of the 31st MEU are excited for this historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, Commanding Officer of the 31st MEU. “The new F-35B Lightning II is a great addition to the team. It’s a flexible aircraft, which will greatly enhance our capabilities as a MEU to execute missions across the spectrum.”
In addition to the F-35B, the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) will support operations and practice missions that benefit the overall capability of the landing forces and survival ability of amphibious ships in the Blue Water domain.
The addition of Dewey and F-35B advances the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Up-Gunned ESG that leverages advanced sensors and weapons systems to allow for expeditionary forces to operate in multi-threat maritime environments.
Ships of the Wasp ESG consist of Wasp, amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and Dewey.