Monday, March 23, 2009

Bataan Sails Into CERTEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jeremy Grisham, USS Bataan Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., are conducting their Certification Exercise (CERTEX) through March 24 off the Atlantic coast.

CERTEX is the last of three pre-deployment exercises designed to evaluate and train Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) before the ARG deploys overseas. The exercise will fully certify Bataan and the 22nd MEU as the BATARG/22MEU.

While similar to prior pre-deployment exercises, CERTEX is designed to strengthen the "green" team's ability to operate with the Navy and respond to various tasking, which they may be called upon to conduct while forward deployed.

"It is a green focus event," said Capt. Jack Sotherland, Amphibious Squadron 2's commodore. "Our focus is on making sure the 22nd MEU is able to achieve all their goals and return back to New River (N.C.) and Camp Lejeune fully certified for major combat operations."

The "blue" side will still be hectic, as the ships will not be working on a certain timeline and have a more reactive focus, said Sotherland.

The training evolutions will be evaluated by the Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) stationed at Camp Lejeune, based on planning, execution and timeliness.

The exercise builds off the lessons learned from prior exercises and includes additional training that will prepare the BATARG/22MEU for deployment.

"The event is going to consist of a number of different evolutions," said Col. Gareth F. Brandl, commander of the 22nd MEU. "From occupying an embassy with a fallen command element to conducting raids and mass casualty events to tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel."

Once CERTEX is complete, Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Melvin Williams, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, will fully certify BATARG/22MEU as a deployable unit.

The BATARG/22MEU is a scalable, multipurpose force of Marines and Sailors.

The 22nd MEU, commanded by Brandl, consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

The Bataan ARG consists of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (LPD 15), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name. CVL-29 was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier that was commissioned in November 1943. After serving in both World War II and the Korean conflict, CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954.