May 27, 2021 – Sailors and Marines of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed integrated training off the coast of Southern California and returned to San Diego, May 27.
The Essex ARG and 11th MEU took part in a multi-week training evolution with nearly 5,000 Marines and Sailors, providing an opportunity to plan and conduct operations as an integrated amphibious force.
“Over the last few weeks, the Essex ARG has demonstrated their ability to fully integrate with the 11th MEU team through the execution of a broad range of operations in the air, surface, and land domains,” said Navy Capt. John Barnett, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1. “With our ability to sea base anywhere in the world, integration of these areas alongside the Marine Corps allows us to provide unparalleled options for force projection and combined military operations anywhere around the globe.”
The Blue-Green team developed their ability to rapidly plan, brief, execute, and debrief complex operations in unfamiliar environments during the training. The ESX ARG/11th MEU conducted numerous operations including the full embarkation of the MEU; defense of the amphibious task force; air and surface raids; crisis response operations; expeditionary advanced base operations; visit, board, search, and seizure; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel; and a full amphibious landing.
“This underway period provided an exceptional opportunity to train as a fully integrated Navy and Marine Corps team. We were challenged to adapt to various scenarios and mission requirements all while conducting sustained, multi-domain naval expeditionary operations,” said Col. James Lively, the 11th MEU commanding officer. “We were able to exercise the full range of ARG/MEU capabilities in a dynamic and realistic training environment. Training events like this are a critical part of building ready, lethal, integrated and responsive naval expeditionary forces—in our case, the combined capabilities of the Amphibious Squadron One, the Essex ARG, and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.”
Additionally, Naval Special Warfare SEAL, Boat and Reconnaissance units integrated with the ARG/MEU to practice and refine tactics that integrate NSW capabilities with fleet operations.
“This training presents an opportunity for fleet and Marine leaders to appreciate NSW’s rapid transition to strategic competition to explore NSW’s unique capabilities to enhance fleet lethality, promote innovation, and test scalable options against emerging threats,” said Navy Capt. Christopher Brown, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1. “NSW is uniquely positioned to extend the fleet’s reach and reduce risk, delivering all-domain options for naval and joint force commanders.”
Complementing the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations call for improved integration and interoperability with the fleet, NSW supported the 11th MEU’s rehearsal of EABO, assisted with over-the-horizon targeting and directed the 11th MEU aviation assets in providing close-air support from distributed locations.
NSW forces also practiced a clandestine sea-to-shore movement, using the 11th MEU’s Quick Reaction Force during exfiltration. To increase interoperability, the SEAL Team sent an advisor aboard amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the 11th MEU sent an advisor to the shore-based NSW Task Group headquarters.
The training concluded with the execution of a full-scale amphibious offload and assault of nearly 1,200 Marines and Sailors. Not only is this one of the 11th MEU’s fundamental mission sets, but it is also a principal type of amphibious operation that involves establishing a force on a hostile or potentially hostile shore.
The ESX ARG is comprised of three ships: USS Essex, amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD 27), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52). Together, the 11th MEU, PHIBRON 1, and ships are designated as an ARG/MEU. In addition to the ships, the principal Navy elements of the ARG are a Naval Beach Group element (operating with assault craft unit, landing craft units, and landing craft, air cushion), the Tactical Air Control Squadron element, a fleet surgical team, and a helicopter sea combat squadron element. The independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Omaha (LCS 12) also joined the ESX ARG/11th MEU for the duration of integrated training to include well deck operations.
The MEU consists of four major components: a command element, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element, and a logistics combat element. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), Marine Attack Squadron 214, and Combat Logistics Battalion 11. Together, these elements—and supporting units—are trained, organized, and equipped to perform amphibious operations.
The 11th MEU’s mission is to provide a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force. With the increasing concentration of the world’s population close to a coastline, amphibious forces provide the unique ability to operate simultaneously on the sea, ashore, and in the air. As a fully integrated team, the ARG/MEU is able to leverage command of the seas to build necessary partnerships, exert timely influence, and deter conflict around the globe.