USS ESSEX (At Sea) - The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed Okinawa, Japan Jan. 29 for a regularly scheduled deployment after onloading components of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Jan. 27-28.

The ARG’s patrol throughout the Western Pacific region will include a series of bilateral military and maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between the U.S. and its partner nations.

“The purpose of this deployment is to exhibit forward presence,” said Capt. Bradley Lee, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11. “We want to show our partners in this region that we are here to help and have the assets to handle almost anything.”

Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), and the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) embarked more than 2,200 Marines and attached Sailors during the onload. In addition, 150 vehicles and 2,100 short-tons of equipment were loaded by Marines assigned to the 31st MEU and combat cargo divisions in less than 48 hours.

“The on-load is new for everyone on this crew,” said Gunnery Sgt. Steven R. Jones, Essex’s senior combat cargo assistant. “We finished ahead of schedule, which is rare with a new crew. For a ship this size, it usually takes three days to load, but this time it took half the time.”

Amid exercises involving the militaries of long standing allies, port visits will provide Sailors and Marines the chance for rest and relaxation and to lend a helping hand to local communities through community relations projects.

“We have a great crew of Sailors and now a full load of capable Marines,” said Lee. “We have a lot planned for this deployment and stand ready to respond to any unforeseen events.”

The Essex ARG is commanded by, Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered on Okinawa, Japan.