In this file photo, Quartermaster 3rd Class Scott McCutcheon plots the ship's current position in the pilothouse of the amphibious transport dock USS Denver (LPD 9), Aug. 13, 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Blair)

SASEBO, Japan - Ships of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed Sasebo, Japan Sept. 21 to begin a patrol of the Western Pacific region.

During the patrol, the Essex ARG will embark and work with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in completing an amphibious integration training and certification exercise (CERTEX) off the coast of Okinawa.

“This certification exercise allows Sailors from the amphibious ready group to train with their Marine counterparts, solidifying the importance of our blue-green team,” said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11.

These types of exercises help maintain the ARG’s readiness to effectively respond to unforeseen events in the region and keeps the skills of the Sailors and Marines sharp should their service be called upon.

“Since it’s my first underway with this ship, it’s a bit exciting to be leaving for this fall deployment,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Watkins, Amphibious Squadron 11 operations department leading petty officer.

The Essex ARG consists of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9).

Ships of the Essex ARG returned in April from assisting citizens of Japan after the nation was struck by an 8.9 earthquake and a tsunami. During the disaster relief operation, Operation Tomodachi, Sailors and Marines moved 80 tons of relief supplies ashore in one day and assisted in clearing debris from Oshima Island.

More recently, the Essex ARG returned in August from participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre, a bilateral exercise with Australian and U.S. forces. Talisman Sabre is a biennial, joint sponsored exercise by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Operations Command.

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.