In this file photo, USS Essex (LHD 2) operates in the Arabian Gulf in September. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Sean P. Gallagher)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) transited the Strait of Malacca and conducted routine operations in the South China Sea as part of a deployment to the Western Pacific Nov. 7-10.

The ARG's flagship, the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), conducted the patrol as the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) prepared for bilateral training exercises with Brunei and Malaysia.

On Nov. 10, Rushmore began offloading troops for the 2015 iteration of Malaysia-U.S. Amphibious Exercise (MALUS AMPHEX 2015), in which U.S. personnel will train with Malaysian amphibious units ashore to instruct and develop core competencies and enhance interoperability with a key partner nation in the region.

Meanwhile, elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked in Anchorage, were preparing for participation in bilateral training with the Royal Brunei Land Forces in support of that phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.

"Only the flexible, scalable and responsive force structure of the Amphibious Ready Group-Marine Expeditionary Unit team allows for participation in three critically important, concurrent events in the region," said Capt. Clint Carroll, ARG Commander. "While having the three-ship composite unit sailing together delivers a wide range of capabilities that can be sustained longer-term, independent operations make it possible for Essex ARG Sailors and Marines to meet three theater objectives concurrently."

"That's one of the primary value-added characteristics of the amphibious ready group construct - an adaptable, flexible, mobile force able to meet mission requirements when and where amphibious forces are needed," continued Carroll.

Routine patrols like this one support security and stability throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Other U.S. Navy ships performed similar operations in the 7th Fleet area of operation in recent months, including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Preble (DDG 88), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).

The Essex ARG includes the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), as well as various supporting elements from Assault Craft Unit 5, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 1, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21. The Essex ARG is assigned to Combined Task Force 76 (CTF 76) during its time in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR.

The Essex ARG and 15th MEU deployed from San Diego, Calif., May 11, 2015, on a regularly scheduled deployment and will continue to support operations and engagements in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR prior to returning to homeport.

Cmdr. Brian Amador, operations officer aboard USS Essex (LHD 2), launches an AV-8B Harrier from the Greyhawks of Marine Medium-lift Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 (Reinforced), Nov. 10. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Huey D. Younger Jr.)
Sailors and Marines launch amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) from the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) Nov. 10 off the coast of Malaysia in preparation for amphibious training with the Malaysian Armed Forces. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Chelsea Troy Milburn)