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.
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.
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.
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.
(Korean for “We go together!”)