Monday, June 29, 2009

Essex Arrives in Cairns

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson, USS Essex Public Affairs

CAIRNS, Australia (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Cairns June 28.

The visit is the ship's first ever stop in Cairns and will serve as an opportunity for Essex Sailors and Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to experience the the local culture prior to the commencement of Talisman Saber 2009 (TS09), a biennial, bilateral exercise designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces.

"Flexibility is key to mission success," said Essex Commanding Officer Capt. Brent Canady. "We're happy to be here in Cairns and have the opportunity to experience a different part of Queensland. Our Sailors are very eager to explore the city and meet the people."

Essex's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department will offer 25 distinctive tours to highlight some of the best recreational opportunities in the city. Essex Sailors and Marines can explore the vibrant waters of the Great Barrier Reef, catch a bird's-eye view of Cairns' landscape in a hot-air balloon and participate any various other activities.

"Our goal has always been to offer a variety of packages that highlight the culture and scenery of the countries we visit," said Mick Hultz, Essex's afloat recreation specialist. "There is so much to see and do in Australia and I hope people take advantage of that. It's really a great opportunity to see things that you can't see anywhere else."

The ship last visited Australia during exercise Talisman Saber 2007, making this visit a first for the majority of the Essex crew.

"I can't wait to see the country, I hear great things about Australia," said Boatswain Mate Seaman Jeffrey Giraldo. "All the foreign countries we go to offer something new."

Essex departed its homeport of Sasebo, Japan, June 12 for TS09.

Essex was commissioned on Oct. 17, 1992, and is capable of carrying 1,200 Sailors and 1,800 Marines. It is 844 feet long, can travel at 24+ knots and displaces 40,650 tons.

During TS09, Essex will have three Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit 5. LCACs are high-speed, over-the-beach fully amphibious landing craft, capable of carrying a 60-75 ton payload. They are used to transport weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel from ship to shore and across the beach.

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. amphibious ready group (ARG) and serves as the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.