Thursday, January 21, 2010

Essex Departs for Spring Patrol

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan, Jan. 20 for the ship's annual spring patrol throughout the Western Pacific region.

The deployment will feature a series of bilateral, maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between U.S. and Western Pacific partner nations.

"Operationally, I'm looking forward to working with other nations expanding our involvement with their navies," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex's commanding officer. "It's always exciting and educational to operate with our allied navies, as well as getting our Marines ashore so they can operate with the ground forces of those countries."

Throughout spring patrol, Essex Sailors, along with Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), will train with forces throughout the region.

In addition to enhancing joint military efforts, these exercises will focus on humanitarian readiness, a responsibility many Essex Sailors take personally. Many, like Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Lourd Arthur Manabat, from Tarlac City, Republic of the Philippines, have family members living in the region.

"Being on Essex means that I could directly contribute to any humanitarian efforts we might need to do with countries like the Philippines," said Manabat. "I've had the opportunity to help out after a landslide before and it's a pretty eye-opening experience to see people that really need your help."

Should a natural disaster occur, Essex would use amphibious landing craft vehicles and an assortment of helicopters to deliver food, water and medical supplies to victims. Essex Sailors will work closely with military and civilians at various locations to improve bilateral efforts in the event of a major disaster, such as a typhoon or earthquake.

The Sailors of Essex's Deck Department would play a pivotal role in the overall effectiveness of a humanitarian relief effort. It is their job to launch and recover landing craft, air cushions and landing craft utility vehicles from the ship's well deck. Improving these skills will be their primary focus throughout spring patrol.

"We need to be ready to support the Essex mission, whatever the tasking may be," said Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW/AW) Braxter Brooks, 2nd Division leading chief petty officer. "For the Deck Department on USS Essex, failure is not an option."

In addition to preparing for unexpected catastrophes, Essex Sailors routinely take a proactive approach in assisting the local communities in the countries they visit, and spring patrol will be no exception. The Religious Ministries Department has scheduled community service projects in the region. Dozens of Sailors have already volunteered to assist with structural repairs and painting in Thailand, and the religious ministries team is currently planning additional projects in other countries.

"It's really important to do these kinds of projects because it's an opportunity for us to build a relationship with the people of the countries we visit," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Michael Brewer, who is helping to organize the projects.

While Essex Sailors will be busy with operational and volunteer commitments, spring patrol will not be all work. Sailors will have liberty in the region. For many, this will be their first time visiting countries in the region.

Essex is commanded by Capt. Troy Hart and 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.