SUBIC BAY, Philippines (Oct. 22, 2011) A landing craft utility approaches the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) in preparation for offloading equipment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl)

SUBIC BAY, Philippines - The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) arrived in Subic Bay Oct. 22 and offloaded components of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) marking the beginning of Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2012.

PHIBLEX is a bilateral exercise designed to increase readiness, improve interoperability and develop professional relationships between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.

"The ARG/MEU team is very excited to have the opportunity to train with the Republic of the Philippines Armed Forces," said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. "We look forward to the continued cooperation and mutual support that these training opportunities provide."

The exercise will be used to practice and rehearse the two countries' shared responses to a spectrum of contingencies to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"Even with some last minute changes we were able to successfully complete the offload efficiently in just one day," said Gunnery Sgt. John W. Janney, Essex' senior combat cargo assistant. "Safety is always our primary concern and we were once again able to conduct a safe offload."

Combat cargo Marines coordinated to offload more than 1,000 31st MEU Marines and 114 vehicles, including amphibious assault vehicles, high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles and medium tactical vehicle replacements.

"My first offload as part of combat cargo went a lot faster than I thought it would," said Lance Cpl. Kodie L. Dean, a Marine assigned to Essex's combat cargo division. "Our preparation the few days prior to the offload really contributed to how smoothly it went."

The Essex ARG consists of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).