USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Comstock (LSD 45) and USS Somerset (LPD 25) steam in formation in the Pacific. (U.S. Navy/PO2 Dennis Grube)

INDIAN OCEAN - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed the 7th Fleet area of operations after concluding several port visits and exchanges with partner militaries on Nov. 30.

While in U.S. 7th Fleet, the Makin Island ARG/11th MEU participated in bilateral training exercises and conducted operations throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific. The series of bilateral engagements, which included exercises Keen Sword 17 with Japan and Tiger Strike 16 with Malaysia, and a theater security cooperation engagement with Sri Lanka, was meant to strengthen communication and coordination with allies and partners to increase our combat readiness and crisis response time.

“Our Navy-Marine Corps team capitalized on every opportunity to work with our partners and allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region as we exercised the spectrum of our amphibious capabilities,” said Capt. Mike Crary, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5. “This team put their training to work and proved their capabilities in 7th Fleet, and I am confident they have the training, determination and teamwork necessary to accomplish any mission that comes their way as we head into the dynamic 5th Fleet operating area.”

Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer of 11th MEU, shared similar sentiments.

“These Marines and Sailors clearly understand the importance of working with our partners and allies to learn from one another, enhance capabilities and strengthen relationships,” said Tipton. “When faced with unforeseen events, the team came together to overcome the challenges of real-world situations and I couldn’t be prouder of their performance. Once again, the Navy-Marine Corps team proved its unique ability to put Marines ashore, accomplish the mission and return to ARG shipping without the use of a secured base, seaport or airfield.”

Makin Island now enters U.S. 5th to continue its deployment. While in U.S. 5th Fleet, the Navy and Marine Corps team will support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts to ensure the free flow of commerce, freedom of navigation and regional security.

The Makin Island ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), the command ship for PHIBRON 5 and the 11th MEU, amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Embarked units, which extend the ARG’s capabilities, include the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, Fleet Surgical Team 5, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11 and Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5.

The 11th MEU is a sea-based Marine air/ground task force comprised of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines; an aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); a combat logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 11; and a command element with a commanding officer who leads the entire MEU.