Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NASSG Completes First Phase of COMPTUEX

An AV-8B Harrier attached to the Air Combat Element of the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) taxis forward while a second Harrier lands just aft aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Coleman Thompson)

The Nassau Strike Group (NASSG) wrapped up the first phase of its Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) on Dec. 7, allowing the strike group to begin preparations on the second, and final, phase of training.

COMPTUEX provides realistic training environments for Navy and Marine Corps personnel that closely replicate the operational challenges routinely encountered during military operations around the world. The forum provides an excellent opportunity to confirm joint operating procedures and work closely and cooperatively with the military services of our neighbors and allies.

As such, the first phase, or "Green Phase," focused on Marine-centric missions that may be received by the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU) during its deployment. In these scenarios, the Navy team of the NASSG served in a supporting role to ensure the Marine-led missions were met with success.

As the NASSG enters the second phase, or "Blue Phase," the missions will be more Navy-centric and supported by the 24 MEU team. The Blue Phase is scheduled to run through Dec. 17, culminating in the conclusion of COMPTUEX.

"The cool thing about what we do is that it's (the relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps team) new every time, every single time," said Marine Corps Col. Peter Petronzio, 24 MEU commanding officer. "It's a brand new team that comes together every time we do this. It's a brand new blue-green team that comes together for six months, learns how to live with each other, how to work with each other how to fight together and then we deploy for six months to go do what it is the nation needs us to do."

According to Petronzio, the 24 MEU trained to at least 21 different missions – everything from "helping people who need help" to combat-centric operations. During the Green Phase, the 24 MEU led planning for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and executed a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) where internally displaced persons (IDPs) and detainees were evacuated to Nassau from a simulated hostile environment. During the NEO, members of 24 MEU's Ground Combat Element worked to keep the peace on the ground while the Aviation Combat Element transported simulated IDPs detainees and refugees out of the area.

Keeping realism at the forefront, scenarios were based on current humanitarian assistance operations in Bangladesh, and recent NEO operations similar to the evacuation of American citizens from the war-torn region of Lebanon in 2006. Using the lessons learned and examples set during these operations, the Navy-Marine Corps team of the NASSG refined its rapid response planning process and created solutions to these challenging scenarios. The phase culminated with a Supporting Arms Coordination Exercise where air, land and surface components of the Navy-Marine Corps team came together in a combined live-fire exercise.

Logistically, COMPTUEX also allowed the ACE an opportunity to complete needed Deck Landing Qualifications for many different aircraft on board Nassau, including AV-8B Harriers, CH-46 Sea Knights, CH-53 Super Stallions and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunships. It also provided a continued opportunity for the Navy-Marine Corps team to refine its processes, procedures and allow for interoperability between the services as they march closer to a 2008 deployment.

"Together, (the NASSG/24 MEU team) can put a small piece of sovereign America anywhere in the world that has water, in about seven days," said Petronzio. "This is the most unique capability of any military in the world, but the way we do it is just incredible."

The NASSG is made up of amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4); amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville (LPD 13); amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48); guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58); guided-missile destroyers USS Ross (DDG 71) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84); the attack submarine USS Albany (SSN 753); and a Marine Landing Force from the 24 MEU.

Participating as a simulated coalition partner is USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), and participating as simulated opposition forces are guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99); and guided-missile frigates USS Klakring (FFG 42), USS Nicholas (FFG 47) and USS Hawes (FFG 53).

Currently preparing for its regularly scheduled 2008 deployment, the NASSG is made up of more than 5,000 Sailors and Marines, and projects sea power ashore by maintaining the capability of landing amphibious forces by helicopters, amphibious track vehicles, air cushion landing craft, and assault craft whenever and wherever the need arises.