Integration and Synchronization Essential to Getting Forces Ashore – Exercise Ssang Yong 2016

By Rear Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr.
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven

In the weeks that led up to the start of the long-awaited combined amphibious exercise with one of our closest allies, tensions on the Korean peninsula were high. As the world watched the developing situations to the north, the Sailors and Marines of Forward Deployed Naval Forces Japan were preparing for complex and extensive operations that would surely test the cohesion, cooperation, and capabilities of the Blue/Green team.

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (March 3, 2016) Capt. Lee Dong-hee, the commanding officer of ROKS DOKDO (LPH-6111), Brig. Gen. John Jansen, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Vice Adm. John Nowell, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 stand with Republic of Korea (ROK) Sailors during USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) visit to Busan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Jermaine M. Ralliford/Released)

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (March 3, 2016) Capt. Lee Dong-hee, the commanding officer of ROKS DOKDO (LPH-6111), Brig. Gen. John Jansen, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Vice Adm. John Nowell, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 stand with Republic of Korea (ROK) Sailors during USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) visit to Busan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Jermaine M. Ralliford/Released)

Ssang Yong, or “Twin Dragons” in Korean, represents the alliance and commitment to self-defense between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Based on shared interests and common values, this 63-year old relationship grows stronger every day.

In the past few weeks the cold waters off the east coast of Korea, flush with commerce, were host also to warships of the United States and the Republic of Korea navies. Expeditionary Strike Group Seven, comprised of the Bonhomme Richard and Boxer Amphibious Ready Groups as well as Commander, Destroyer Squadron 7 and Aegis guided-missile cruiser Shiloh, joined Commander Flotilla 5 of the ROK navy off the peninsula, demonstrating to the region that the ROK-US alliance is a force for peace and stability both on the peninsula, and through-out Northeast Asia.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 8, 2016)  U.S. ships from the Boxer and Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Groups sail with the Dokdo Amphibious Ready Group from the Republic of Korea as part of Ssang Yong 16. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 8, 2016) U.S. ships from the Boxer and Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Groups sail with the Dokdo Amphibious Ready Group from the Republic of Korea as part of Ssang Yong 16. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit/Released)

During Ssang Yong, we demonstrated our ability to defend ourselves in all areas of naval warfare while still executing amphibious operations ashore. Complex scenarios, including MV-22 Osprey, heavy lift, and attack helicopter flight operations were coupled with AV-8B Harrier jet launches providing close-air support to the Marines and Sailors on the beach. We flooded the well decks, launching LCACs and AAVs under the naval surface fire support from the Shiloh. ROK navy UH-60 Huey’s supported amphibious operations with personnel transport while ROK destroyers Moonmu Daewang and Sejong Daewang provided defense of the amphibious force. Together these assets increased the capability and capacity of the amphibious force to conduct complex operations at sea. Integration, synchronization, and communication within our combined force was key to our success, and the success of the exercise as a whole.

EAST SEA (March 10, 2016) – A landing craft air cushion (LCAC), assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, launches from the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Sykes/Released)

EAST SEA (March 10, 2016) – A landing craft air cushion (LCAC), assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, launches from the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Sykes/Released)

But to understand the enormity and complexity of this exercise, you only have to look at the dynamic forces participating in the exercise. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group with embarked Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked PHIBRON 1 and 13th MEU, and the ROK Navy’s Commander, Flotilla 5.

Reflecting on this exercise, it has certainly been one team, one fight. United with the ROK Navy and Marine Corps, we are an unbeatable team. Over the past few weeks we observed a cohesive amphibious force come together and execute a wide range of complex amphibious operations. I look forward to continued integrated operations in the near future.

Katchi Kapshida!
(Korean for “We go together!”)

EAST SEA (March 12, 2016) – Distinguisher visitors assigned to military forces participating in exercise Ssang Yong 16 pose for a photo in the hangar bay of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after a tour of the ships operations centers as a part of exercise Ssang Yong 16. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Released)

EAST SEA (March 12, 2016) – Distinguisher visitors assigned to military forces participating in exercise Ssang Yong 16 pose for a photo in the hangar bay of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after a tour of the ships operations centers as a part of exercise Ssang Yong 16. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Released)

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