Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group, 13th MEU Complete Certification Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fletcher Gibson, USS Boxer Public Affairs

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) -- The 13th Marine Expeditionary unit, along with the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) and the Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group, completed its certification exercise (CERTEX) off the coast of Southern California Dec. 17.

The 12-day period of amphibious actions demonstrated the unit's ability to perform a wide variety of missions and was the final check mark making the 13th MEU/Amphibious Squadron 1 team ready for deployment.

Alongside Boxer, the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and the Marines of the 13th MEU completed simulated missions ranging from maritime boarding to amphibious land raids, to civilian evacuation drills.

"We've been able to evaluate our full set of missions," said Maj. Ryan Caughlin, 13th MEU operations officer. "Since the first day we formed up, this is what our entire training has built up to."

While the focus of the evaluation was on mission completion for the Marines, their ability to integrate with their naval partners and deploy to their assignments was a key part of the evaluation.

Launching harrier jets from Boxer's flight deck or equipping landing craft from USS Green Bay played a large part in their ongoing success.

"There's no such thing as a pure Navy or Marine Corps show when you're an amphibious force," said Col. David Coffman, 13th MEU commanding officer.

The all-amphibious operations of CERTEX also marked a shift for most of the Marines involved who had until now only been involved in land operations and training. Nearly 60 percent of the MEU personnel had never done a ship deployment, and Coffman said he was excited to be able to turn them into sea-going Marines.

"The [best] part to me is watching the Marines learn what it is to be a Marine," he said, "To not just ride around on a ship, but operate from a ship and do our mission."

CERTEX was the third and final group exercise for the 13th MEU and Boxer ARG. Previous exercises consisted of the PHIBRON/Marine Integration (PMINT) which first tested the Blue/Green team's ability to coordinate together, and the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) which tested the Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group as a whole.

With these three major certifications behind them, the ARG and MEU are ready for their scheduled deployment in early 2011.