CORAL SEA - The Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships led by Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH 182), completed a transit from the Philippine Sea to Coral Sea, June 16.
"It has been great to be out at sea with our high-end partners, increasing our interoperability," said Capt. Jim McGovern, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. "I continue to be impressed with the JMSDF, and their complementary capabilities with the Wasp ARG and 31st MEU."
The Wasp ARG consists of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the embarked 31st MEU. Fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6) joined the bilateral transit during a replenishment-at-sea. Ōsumi-class tank landing ship JS Kunisaki (LST 4003) also participated in the bilateral transit.
Green Bay and Ise conducted a crew-swap with senior leaders from each other’s ships to learn more about their respective platforms.
"It is truly a pleasure to operate with PHIBRON 11 and an honor to sail with our Japanese allies," said Col. Robert Brodie, 31st MEU's commanding officer. "The 31st MEU is eager to develop and build greater interoperability with the Japan Self-Defense Forces aligning our collective capabilities, assuring regional stability and preparing for crisis response. Our bilateral amphibious forces truly demonstrate ready and visible partnerships with the common interests of regional stability."
The bilateral transit provided an opportunity for the naval forces to participate in a junior officer naval staff exchange and integration on board Wasp and Ise. They also conducted flight operations and practiced flight deck landings on U.S. and Japanese ships to enhance interoperability through multiple exercises.
“This bilateral exercise will improve the interoperability between Japan – U.S. amphibious units and contribute to the Indo-Pacific regional peace and stability,” said Rear Adm. Shirane, JMSDF's mine warfare force commander. “I am convinced that our strong partnership will be long lasting.”
The Wasp ARG, 31st MEU team is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.