SASEBO, Japan - The forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) returned to Sasebo after completing Summer Patrol Aug. 25.
Germantown departed Sasebo June 23 to participate in Talisman Sabre 2011 (TS11), a bilateral command post and field training exercise designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces. The exercise consisted of approximately 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel. After on loading Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in White Beach, Okinawa, the ship headed south towards Australia.
Before the start of the exercise, the ship made a port visit to Townsville, Australia, where the crew had the opportunity to shop and participate in several morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) activities.
The ship’s first class association sponsored a community relations project at the Cancer Institute and Endeavor, where Sailors and Marines did yard maintenance and interacted with mentally challenged individuals.
A welcome to Townsville ceremony was held for Sailors and Marines, where they had the opportunity to witness a dance by indigenous Australians and tour a museum.
Yeoman 1st Class(SW) Sheena Hunt said she enjoyed the event and found the host to be extremely friendly. “I enjoyed the visit,” she said. “It allowed us to interact with the Australians and learn more about their culture.”
During TS11, Marines conducted an amphibious assault with amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft air cushions storming the beach with their Australian counterparts. Members of Beachmaster Unit 1 and Assault Craft Unit 5 conducted training with beachmasters of the 35th Water Transport Squadron (WTS) of the Australian Defence Force at Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Sabina Point, Australia. Both units trained the 35th WTS on conducting beach surveys, proper operating procedures for landing craft air cushions, signaling and the duties and responsibilities of being a beachmaster.
“Being a part of Talisman Sabre, we get this opportunity to work with our sister nations, share our ideas, introduce different types of equipment and understand how each unit operates,” said CWO4 Dandon Fonner, BMU 1 Det. WESTPAC officer-in-charge. “The Australians have been 100 percent supportive and have assisted with a lot of the coordination of the exercise.”
After the completion of the three week exercise, the ship headed down to Brisbane, Australia, where several high level events took place. A big top ceremony was held on the flight deck that was attended by Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet Rear Adm. J. S. Jones and other Australian dignitaries. A change of command ceremony was also held as Cmdr. Carol McKenzie relieved Cmdr. A. D. Hull as Germantown’s commanding officer.
A community relations project, sponsored by the ship’s religious ministries department, was held at Mater Children’s Hospital, where volunteers interacted with the children. A softball game between Germantown Sailors and Marines and members of the Australian military also took place, as well as several tours sponsored by the ship’s MWR department.
“I had the chance to visit the Koala Sanctuary and hold a koala,” said Gunners Mate 3rd Class Linnell Bajao. “That was one of the main things I wanted to do while in Brisbane.”
After leaving Brisbane and heading back to Okinawa, a crossing the line ceremony was held once the ship approached the equator to cleanse the sliminess off all the pollywogs and turn them into trusty shellbacks.
Prior to arriving in Sasebo, the ship made another stop in Okinawa, where the 31st MEU offloaded more than 450 Marines, their vehicles and equipment. Germantown Executive Officer Cmdr. Jason Leach said the summer patrol and TS11 was a success.
“TS11 was an excellent opportunity to train with both the Marines and our close ally Australia,” he said. “This opportunity broadened each services expertise and understanding of the importance of interoperability. As always, the Germantown crew performed incredibly with the highest degree of professionalism and expertise.”
With TS11 now complete, the ship is making preparations to depart for fall patrol. Leach said the ensuring the crew and ship are prepared is the number one goal.
“We will focus on repairing key equipment to ensure continued success, attending required schools to ensure our Sailors are properly trained and outfitting the ship to ensure we are ready to answer all missions,” he said.
Germantown, commanded by Cmdr. Carol McKenzie, is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.