Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Essex Underway After Successful Winter Availability

Engineman 3rd Class Donald Jones releases a mooring line as the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) prepares to get underway from Sasebo, Japan for a scheduled two-month deployment as the lead ship in the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Myrick (Released)

The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan for Spring Patrol, Jan 24.

With a crew of more than 1,100 Sailors, Essex will join with the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and amphibious transport dock USS Juneau (LPD 10).

Essex will embark more than 1,300 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), including the 31st MEU Air Combat Element (ACE) and Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2nd Battalion 4th Marines.

The combined Navy – Marine Corps team of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESX ESG) is deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations (AOR) and will perform various joint and combined exercises during the spring patrol.

Essex departs Sasebo after a successful winter availability period where the ship received various upgrades and improvements. Crews replaced various radar antennae and worked on the ship's ballasting system, distilling units and the steam system.

During the winter availability, Essex Sailors completed more than 5,700 man hours towards material readiness and ship up-keep. More than 2.4 million dollars in depot level maintenance was completed to prepare Essex for spring patrol.

Additionally, Sailors were able to complete professional team training in combat warfare areas and training for new computer systems installed during the previous availability.

The security department completed training for sentries and reaction force members, improving Essex's security team knowledge and proficiency.

Also during the holiday period, Essex Sailors were invited to their sister ship, JS Kurama, to participate in a mochi-pounding ceremony, helping enhance host nation relations and strengthen bonds between partnership navy Sailors. Kurama also presented Essex with Japanese traditional Kadomatsu to display on the quarterdeck during the holiday season. Essex hosted ship tours for 100 Kurama sailors, 40 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force members, 10 Ship Repair Facility employees and 60 Department of Defense high school and elementary school students.

After more than a month in port some Essex Sailors were ready to get back to sea.

"I'm excited to get underway," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Francine Garcia. "I'm a boatswain's mate, getting underway is what we do."

Essex normally does two patrols each year in the 7th Fleet AOR, working closely with strategic partner countries to strengthen ties and maintain proficiency performing combined operations with regional partner navies.

Essex is the only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and serves Task Force 76 the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.