Saturday, June 13, 2009

Essex Departs For Talisman Saber

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan, for exercise Talisman Saber 2009 (TS09) June 12.

The exercise is designed to enhance bilateral interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces and will feature more than 20,000 U.S. and 10,000 Australian personnel.

"This is the third time exercise Talisman Saber has been conducted since exercises Tandem Thrust and Crocodile were combined into a biennial, joint combined exercise with Australian and U. S. forces," said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex' commanding officer. "Essex Sailors are looking forward to the opportunity to work with our Australian counterparts to enhance our warfighting skills."

The exercise will focus on crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations and is concentrated in the Shoalwater Bay training area near Rockhampton in central Queensland as well as the Townsville field training area. TS09 will provide an opportunity to work in a combined, joint environment and refine procedures and doctrine.

Essex Sailors will be instrumental in accomplishing the primary goal of the exercise, which is to train Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Australian Deployable Joint Force Headquarters as a designated, combined task force.

"Talisman Saber is a great opportunity for us to enhance our interoperability," said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Sigurdson, Essex' aircraft handler. "It's especially important to what we do on the flight deck. Being familiar and comfortable with the way each other operates is essential to conducting safe, effective operations."

The deployment will also serve as a first opportunity for many Essex Sailors to visit Australia.

"Everyone has heard stories about what a great time it is to visit Australia," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Brett Scott, of Baltimore. "This is going to be my first visit, and I'm definitely excited to check it out for myself. One of the great advantages of being in the forward-deployed Navy is the chance to see great ports like the ones we'll hit on this deployment. It should be pretty cool."

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