PACIFIC OCEAN (Dec. 14, 2011) Marines embark a CH-46E Sea Stallion helicopter, assigned to the Red Dragons of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268 Reinforced, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg)

USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea (NNS) - The Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, USS Makin Island (LHD 8), played a major role in supporting theater security cooperation missions in the Asia-Pacific region by serving as the at-sea launching platform for U.S. Marine Corps forces participating in Exercise Kilat Eagle, Dec. 14.

Kilat Eagle is a cooperative exercise taking place in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) between the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Malaysian army. The exercise focuses on jungle training, air assault operations, a staff exchange and numerous platoon and company movements.

Sailors assigned to Makin Island's flight deck worked long hours to launch 11th MEU aircraft and embarked Marines into Kuantan, Malaysia, in order to take part in the exercise.

"The Navy and Marine Corps team plays a critical role in helping to establish international maritime security cooperation with our partner nations," said Capt. Jim Landers, USS Makin Island commanding officer. "Global maritime security is best achieved through international and regional maritime integration, awareness and response initiatives.

Landers said theater security cooperation exercises like Kilat Eagle enable mutual capabilities and capacity to carry out real-world operations.

"The economic interests of the United States, our allies and partner nations depend on unimpeded trade across the world's oceans," added Landers. "Open trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region is extremely important to the world's economy."

During the exercise, Marines from the 11th MEU worked alongside their Malaysian counterparts to learn jungle survival skills and improve helicopter-borne assault techniques.

"Kilat Eagle reinforces our relationship with the Malaysian forces and provides a unique training opportunity for all parties," said Col. Michael Hudson, 11th MEU commanding officer. "We look forward to sharing all that this agile, forward-deployed Marine air-ground-logistics team has to offer.

"This is a golden opportunity. The venues and expertise offered by our gracious hosts will allow us to train with the Malaysians while keeping us sharp for our deployment as America's premier fighting force in the littorals," said Hudson.

Other 11th MEU personnel from Makin Island are participating in additional theater security cooperation exercises in nearby Singapore.

Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's life cycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.

The 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international date line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.