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PHILIPPINE SEA - Ships from forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) worked with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to complete its certification exercise (CERTEX) Oct. 16.
CERTEX is an evaluated event that determines if the 31st MEU is capable of doing certain missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or non-combatant evacuation operations with the ARG.
The certification process gives the Essex ARG and 31st MEU the opportunity to practice their skill sets in a combined and joint environment and is designed to increase both unit's effectiveness.
"This exercise validates our capability to perform a number of tasks that the 31st MEU has been ordered to perform in the past," said Lt. Col. Brian Hawkins, 31st MEU operations officer. "We faced some challenges, but now we are certified and are planning for a real world operation."
Ships of the Essex ARG include the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42). Each ship and its crew members supported the MEU with the CERTEX.
Essex provided a platform at sea from which the MEU conducted helicopter raids and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises. The Marines of the MEU also conducted combat rubber raiding craft operations from the ship's well deck.
Denver and Germantown provided platforms to conduct mechanized raids with the MEU's amphibious assault vehicles launching from their well decks. Marines also used these ships to launch long range reconnaissance patrols and also used them to simulate a merchant vessel to conduct a VBSS.
Capt. Bradley Lee, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, said these types of exercises help maintain the ARG's readiness to effectively respond to unforeseen events in the region and keep the skills of the Sailors and Marines sharp should their service be called upon.
"The ARG did a great job with flexing to support the 31st MEU," said Lee. "Our success during this exercise proves how important it is for the blue-green team to train together so that we can be prepared for real world challenges."
Essex is part of the Essex ARG, which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.
For more news from Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, visit www.navy.mil/local/cpr11/.