Friday, February 19, 2010

USS Cleveland, Marines Participate in Maritime Defense Exercise

USS CLEVELAND, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Cleveland (LPD 7) participated in a maritime infrastructure defense exercise Feb. 16, with six U.S. and coalition surface combatants operating near the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal in the North Arabian Gulf.

Cleveland's embarked Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) supported the exercise with two AH-1W Super Cobras from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166. The Marine Corps attack helicopters integrated with other rotary wing assets to improve familiarization with maritime infrastructure protection. Participating British ships included Frigate HMS Monmouth (F235) and Royal Auxiliary Amphibious Assault Vessel RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009).

"Cleveland's participation in the exercise demonstrated our ability to build effective partnerships in the maritime domain and develop the skills necessary to provide critical infrastructure protection in the North Arabian Gulf," said Capt. Kevin Couch, commanding officer for Cleveland, an Austin-Class amphibious transport dock.

"Training with the crews of the Monmouth and Cardigan Bay was an excellent opportunity to develop a cohesive and relevant naval force capable of protecting critical infrastructure that accounts for approximately 80 percent of Iraq's gross domestic product," said Couch.

Cleveland is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group. The 11th MEU team has been deployed since November to the U.S. 5th Fleet region in support of maritime security operations. Marines aboard the ready group's ships serve as U.S. Central Command's theater reserve force – a forward-deployed, quick-response team, capable of accomplishing a variety of missions.

"This was the first time a Marine attack helicopter integrated in the air defense efforts for the oil platform," said Marine Corps Capt. Ryan Welborn, one of the Cobra pilots from Cleveland who flew during the exercise. "We learned a lot during this mission set."

Welborn said that Marine aircraft operated as a maritime air controller, tactically dispatching assets in order to simulate the defense of the oil platform.

Other participating U.S. vessels included coastal patrol ships USS Sirocco (PC 6) and USS Typhoon (PC 5) guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Adak (WPB 1333).