USS Sterett (DDG 104), USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and USS Comstock (LSD 45) sail in formation during CERTEX off the coast of Southern California. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Larry S. Carlson)

PACIFIC OCEAN - Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) successfully completed a two-week Certification Exercise (CERTEX) Sept. 22 off the coast of Southern California.

CERTEX is the final integrated training event for the Makin Island ARG and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) before deployment.

"The Makin Island ARG and 11th MEU performed especially well during CERTEX," said Capt. Michael Crary, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5. "The scenarios we faced during the evolution were realistic and represented the variety of situations we may encounter on deployment. We were tested on our ability to operate in an unpredictable environment, and the team did so effectively and with precision."

This was a comprehensive, complex training evolution that combined the full gamut of the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and ship-to-shore capabilities.

"The Marines and Sailors of the Makin Island ARG-11th MEU have demonstrated the ability to plan and execute a full range of missions from combat operations to humanitarian assistance with competence and professionalism," said Marine Col. Clay C. Tipton, 11th MEU commanding officer.

The ARG-MEU team was evaluated on their responses to multiple scenarios, testing their ability to operate in several mission-critical areas including maritime boarding, combat flight operations, amphibious beach landings, air defense, mass casualty reception and treatment, and a noncombatant evacuation.

"This team started the work-up cycle strong and was committed to building proficiency with each training repetition," said USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Commanding Officer Capt. Mark A. Melson. "Bottom line -- this team is ready for complex, broad-spectrum combat operations, and our combatant commanders know that we are ready for tasking on day one."

Lt. Cmdr. Jason Wehmeyer, the amphibious warfare subject matter expert for Carrier Strike Group 15 and lead planner for the CERTEX scenarios, said the Makin Island ARG and 11th MEU set the bar for the amphibious Navy during the exercise.

"This was the most complex and intense CERTEX scenario that an ARG-MEU has faced to date," said Wehmeyer. "The reason we've been able to continually push harder and harder is because [the team has] been able to step up and meet that challenge."

The Makin Island ARG is commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 5 and consists of Makin Island, San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) and more than 2,400 Marines from the 11th MEU.

The ARG-MEU team completed the first work-up phase, PHIBRON-MEU integration, in July, which presented their first opportunity to train together during staff-planning and amphibious landing exercises. The second phase, Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), was completed in August and allowed the ARG-MEU team to refine their integrated approach to mission planning while cohesively conducting a variety of sea-based operations.

The Makin Island ARG and 11th MEU are making final preparations for an upcoming deployment.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the eastern Pacific Ocean and engages in joint, interagency and international relationships that strengthen the ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.