WHITE BEACH, Okinawa (June 27, 2011) A Landing Craft Air Cushion departs from the well deck of the forward-deployed dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42). The ship was in Okinawa embarking Sailors and Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon)

OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) - The forward-deployed dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) completed on loading more than 450 Marines and Sailors assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) June 27 in preparation for exercise Talisman Saber 2011 (TS11).

TS11 is a bilateral command post and field training exercise designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces. The exercise also supports increased flexibility and readiness for maintaining regional security. Approximately 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian Defense Force (ADF) personnel are expected to participate. TS11 is the largest joint military exercise undertaken by the ADF.

Germantown Commanding Officer Cdr. A. D. Hull said he expects the crew to work superbly together with the MEU during the exercise.

“I am looking forward to conducting another deployment with the 31st MEU,” he said. “This will be my fifth time sailing with the Marines in the last 18 months. Each time the ARG/MEU team has worked well together to complete exercises and real world operations.”

31st MEU Commanding Officer Col. Andrew MacMannis said the MEU is also looking forward to cooperating with the Australian military during Talisman Saber.

"The 31st MEU looks forward to the partnership with Australia and their military forces,” he said. “This exercise increases our readiness and advances regional security in the Pacific. We look forward to validating our combat readiness and interoperability as part of a combined joint task force.”

The 31st MEU includes more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors, and is comprised of four elements: the Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 31. The Marines and Sailors will embark on both Germantown and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

In addition to the 31st MEU, units from Air Craft Unit 5 are embarked on Germantown for the exercise. They will offer three Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC), 15 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, three 7-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement vehicles, and several hummers to help support the mission. Germantown’s Operations Officer, Lt. Dan Tyler said Germantown will serve as the LCAC control ship during Talisman Saber.

“We will also be the primary ship coordinating AAV operations,” he said.

This is the fourth Talisman Saber exercise since 2005. These exercises provide a valuable opportunity for the U.S. and other nations to work together during wartime and peacetime operations.

This type of training proved to be effective recently when units from the Essex ARG provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, in conjunction with Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces, to Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuring tsunami that struck on March 11.

Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11 said continuing to participate in exercises such as Talisman Saber helps to provide stronger ties between the U.S. and its allies.

“In the past two years, the Essex ARG has conducted five humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the Western Pacific, which is why this type of training with our allies is so essential,” he said.