Arleigh Burke conducted the three-week training to build an effective warfare capability across the various platforms of the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.
"This is the first time we worked together with a multitude of different ship classes," said Cmdr. Camille Flaherty, Arleigh Burke's commanding officer. "We go through different warfare areas that we are expected to be proficient and excel at on deployment. So we spend almost a month perfecting those skills and working together and coming together as a team to be able to operate forward-deployed and put the nation's best foot forward."
COMPTUEX is designed to put the Arleigh Burke crew through rigorous tests in various scenario-driven exercises, such as maritime interdiction operations (MIO).
"The scenarios we saw are real and can happen on deployment," said Cmdr. Thomas Myers, Arleigh Burke's executive officer. "Being able to see it and adjust to it will prepare us for when it's not an exercise."
A large portion of COMPTUEX was dedicated to MIO with the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team, preparing the ship and its crew to board vessels while operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.
"There were several boarding exercises we had the opportunity to participate in during this training phase," said Ensign Kevin Decillis, the VBSS boat officer. "The training scenarios are set up to mimic real life boarding events that have happened in the 5th Fleet and every member of this all volunteer team did exceptionally well."
Although MIO primarily involves a VBSS team boarding a vessel, it is an all-hands effort, like every other evolution during COMPTUEX.
"There is a lot that goes into boarding operations," said Decillis. "The VBSS team is just part of it but it takes the whole ship. From SCAT (small-caliber action team) and the captain as on-scene commander, to the RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) engineers and boat coxswain's expert precision driving the boat, it is a full team effort. And when it comes to it, we will be ready to execute the mission."
Teamwork was a theme and stressed during all evolutions the ship undertook.
"The crew learned that in everything we do, we rely on every department and every division to execute this mission," said Myers. "One weak link in the chain and we could quickly see the evolution spiral out of control."
Aside from MIO, some of the other events the Arleigh Burke Sailors saw were anti-submarine warfare (ASW), air warfare, ballistic missile defense and electronic warfare.
"We are used to doing one warfare area at a time so maybe I do ASW and I track a submarine or I do air warfare and I have an air battle, but COMPTUEX made us put all warfare areas together at one time," said Flaherty. "Learning to communicate from all of the different controlling stations on the ship effectively, not talking over each other and relaying the vital information, that is how the team came together to get the nuances of how to function as a war-fighting asset."
When asked if the ship and its crew are ready for deployment in early 2014, Flaherty answered with a resounding and confident "yes."
"Arleigh Burke came into this not having ever worked with another ship...and I knew, and the crew knew that it would be a steep learning curve being incorporated into the strike group. They did everything I asked them to do and more," said Flaherty. "If there is one message I have to the crew, it's that the reason I get up in the morning is to see what amazing thing they will do next and I am very much looking forward to deploying with them."
George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group consists of Carrier Strike Group 2 staff, Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 22 staff, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), guided-missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), and guided-missile destroyers USS Truxtun (DDG 103), USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51).