By Rear Adm. Rick Snyder
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2
In September, I returned to the amphibious force to serve as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2. Since then, I have been fortunate to sit in the front row, again – to see first-hand the disciplined actions of our tailorable, versatile and highly trained amphibious force. The amphibious force continues to offer a range of unique capabilities – from combat power, to humanitarian assistance from a range of locations ashore, to the littoral, to long-term sea bases.
Recently I was asked what my best time was in a 30-year Navy career. My answer – my best time is today. Today is a great day for our amphibious force. I want to share today with you; to give you a glimpse of the view from the front row.
The Navy-Marine Corps team remains unmatched in its ability to deliver a powerful ground force ashore, maintain freedom of the seas, and execute non-combatant and humanitarian operations to foster peace and stability where needed across the globe.
In partnership with ESG-3, ESG-7 and our Marine counterparts, we provide a visible, flexible, enduring presence and thus provide unique capabilities and solutions worldwide.
Just this week, Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group returned from a successful deployment, operating within the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
The Sailors and Marines onboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), along with elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, completed an eight-month deployment to include the rescue of 128 stranded mariners of the coast of Malta and executing disaggregated operations in support of national tasking off the coast of Libya. Even as the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group approached home, they supported the U.S. Coast Guard in rescuing a man from a distressed vessel. They never stopped answering the call.
As we welcome one amphibious readiness group home, we are getting ready to send another one out the door. The Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group, consisting of USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are underway readying for deployment, conducting exercises off the coast of Virginia.
Last month, as part of a scheduled rotation of forward deployed assets, we welcomed USS Tortuga (LSD 46) home to Norfolk, after completing seven years forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan. While deployed, she took part in numerous multi-lateral training exercises and cooperation afloat events as a continuously forward-deployed amphibious ship. It’s good to have her back, and assuming her forward deployed watch is USS Ashland (LSD 48).
The same day we welcomed USS Tortuga back home, Amphibious Construction Battalion (PHIBCB) 2 was hard at work at the Ocean View beaches of Norfolk. In coordination with the Coast Guard, PHIBCB 2 assisted in the recovery of two buoys which washed ashore during recent heavy weather. As the only East-Coast based amphibious construction battalion, PHIBCB 2 offers a unique combination of dynamic small craft expertise and construction capabilities – they provide the amphibious force even greater capability and flexibility to answer our nation’s call.
Just to show our true range of capability, on the same day we welcomed home Tortuga and pulled buoys off beaches; the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group, in company with two destroyers, conducted a live-fire missile exercise off the Virginia coast.
As we carry out these missions, we have many things to consider given the dynamic environment in which we operate. Our deployments are long, our budget is uncertain, and yet our Navy must still put warfighting first, operate forward, and be ready. We do this with innovative thinking like readiness kill chain analysis, optimized deployment cycles, flexible amphibious readiness group composition considerations, and optimizing use of our newest technology to include the LPD 17 class. Most importantly, we do this with the finest Sailors and Marines the world has ever seen.
As the commander of the East Coast amphibious force, I embrace these efforts so we can make decisions and take action to best meet the interests of our nation, our Sailors and our Marines.
Even as discussions about the structure and role of America’s military continue, the amphibious force will be on point, as we’ve always been. Just this week, eight of 14 East-Coast based amphibious ships conducted operations underway. Dedicated Sailors and Marines conducted exercises, sea trials and certifications in a range of warfare areas from aviation, to combat systems, to engineering. Highly skilled Sailors and Marines conduct these evolutions to ensure we remain more than operational; but relevant, effective and ready at a moment’s notice.
The amphibious force has a tradition of providing unique capabilities to offer solutions. I look forward to continuing that tradition.