Sailors prepare to launch a U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier while aboard USS America (LHA 6), Feb. 11. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Joshua Samoluk)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) successfully completed a group sail training exercise, Feb. 10 off the coast of Southern California.

The group sail allowed the three ARG ships, amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) to exercise together in a maritime environment. Components of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Air Combat Element are also participating in group sail, conducting air qualifications aboard America.

As part of the comprehensive pre-deployment training work-ups, the ships spent a week operating underway, performing highly technical evolutions in the three-ship ARG construct. Training evolutions included threat detection, air defense, and fast attack craft exercises, with additional evolution in flight quarters and replenishments-at-sea. The synthesized training and real-world evolutions allowed the ships to practice the composite warfare concept, where each ship took a leading role in monitoring, protecting, and fighting the battleship elements.

Honing and refining tactic skills are vital to the America ARG's progression through the preparation phase as the ARG readies for deployment later this year.

"Group sail is about getting all three of the America ARG ships out to sea and flexing the composite warfare concept," said Capt. Homer Denius, commanding officer, Amphibious Squadron 3. "These pre-deployment training exercises allow for us to operate in a safe, yet realistic environment. Once we understand how to operate the three ships together, we can then embark our Marine Corps team and train in a fully-integrated environment."

The America ARG received additional at-sea training from the Surface Warfare Mine Development Center (SWMDC). Subject matter experts, known as warfare tactics instructors (WTIs), embarked each of the ships to provide specialized training and feedback in three critical warfare areas -- surface/subsurface, air, and amphibious warfare.

"Our role as warfare tactics instructors is to facilitate training that will ensure mission success," said Lt. Bobbi Becker, amphibious warfare tactics instructor. "We provide mentorship and real-time feedback during the evolution, and then utilize interactive debriefs to ensure the lessons learned are reinforce and lasting."

The America ARG is commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3 and consists of America, San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and more than 2,400 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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

USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) comes along side amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) during a replenishment at sea, Feb. 8. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Kyle Hafer)