Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Essex Returns to Sasebo After Successful Fall Patrol

The Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrives at White Beach after participating in Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX 21G). ANNUALEX is a bilateral exercise with the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo Aquino/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Matthew Ebarb, USS Essex Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) returned to Sasebo, Japan Nov. 21 following a successful fall patrol.

Essex, fresh off of a nine-week Ship's Restricted Availability (SRA) period, departed Oct. 28 to conduct sea trials and to support Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G. During ANNUALEX, Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESX ARG) worked alongside the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to strengthen ties and enhance interoperability between the two navies.

"This was a great opportunity to work with our Japanese partners improving our interoperability skills," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex commanding officer. "Being forward deployed to Japan, we share a friendship and closeness that is distinctive to our nations, and among our naval forces. ANNUALEX showed our commitment to each other and the commitment of our Sailors."

The underway period also gave the ship a chance to perform evolutions such as degaussing and the aviation certification (AVCERT) inspection. These evolutions helped return the ship to a maximum state of readiness following the maintenance period.

For some Sailors, the cruise gave them their first taste of what to expect on deployments.

"It was an interesting experience and there was a lot to get used to," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Brian Ngov, from Rochester, Minn. "It's exciting to stand out on the weatherdecks and see the ship pulling into a new location."

The end of the deployment brings a rare opportunity for Essex Sailors to spend the Thanksgiving holiday season with their families. While those with family members in the area can enjoy the chance to be together, Essex will make sure single Sailors aren't left out in the cold by hosting its own Thanksgiving dinner aboard the ship.

"We'll have a large spread of food, pastries and an ice cream bar all laid out on the mess decks for everyone and their families to enjoy," said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Anthony Ignacio, S-2 Division leading chief petty officer. "It's an opportunity for us to extend a good show of hospitality for our guests and make sure that even our duty personnel have a chance to enjoy the holiday."

Additionally, the Sasebo United Service Organization (USO) will offer Skype video calls to the United States for the holidays. The service will be free for all local service members, giving them a chance to connect with family members back home.

With many more activities on the horizon such as the command Christmas party, Children's Christmas party and holiday stand down, the in-port period will offer Sailors the chance to relax and spend time with their loved ones.

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Amphibious Ready Group 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.