Friday, October 31, 2008

Essex Completes Amphibious Exercises in the Republic of the Philippines

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Didier, Fleet Public Affairs Center Pacific, Det. Sasebo

SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, after completing this year's Talon Vision (TV) and Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX) Oct. 27.

The exercises involved two weeks of ground, air and naval integration training with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The exercises are designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue to improve professional relationships between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.

"Essex Sailors did an outstanding job supporting the Marines as well as the Philippine Armed Forces during both exercises, further improving our interoperability with our partner nation," said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex' commanding officer. "Now that the exercises are complete we look forward to a much deserved port visit in Subic Bay which provides an opportunity to perform some community relations projects as well as enrich our cultural understanding of each other."

Essex arrived in Subic Bay to backload Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), who conducted ground-force training during PHIBLEX and TV.

The Marines of the 31st MEU conducted an intensive series of training exercises with their Filipino counterparts to improve their collective warfighting capabilities. Training scenarios included live arms fire, small unit tactics, and boat-raid training exercises.

With the operational phase of the exercises behind them, Sailors now look to accomplish a great deal in terms of humanitarian assistance and intercultural relations.

Sailors assigned to Essex are scheduled to participate in two community relations projects in Olongapo City during the port visit. Both projects involve minor repair work, painting, English lessons and a variety of interactive friendship building activities.

"We are not just here in a military capacity," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Michael Brewer, of Hanford, Calif. "We want to reach out to help the local community and show them our humanitarian side."

While in the Philippines, Sailors and Marines will enjoy a three-day liberty call at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Olongapo City area.

"I look forward to going back to the Philippines," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Airman (AW) Robert Sherman from Chicago. "I really enjoy going there and taking in the sights and tours. I plan on going to the aquarium and seeing the things I missed the last two visits."

Essex is the only forward-deployed U.S. 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.