Essex ARG/13th MEU with Embarked F-35B Enters Central Command
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS — Earlier this month, the Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II entered the Central Command area of operations for the first time, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) said in a Sept. 10 release.
The 13th MEU and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the attached Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA- 211) is the first continental U.S.-based Navy and Marine Corps force to deploy with the Lightning II. The Essex ARG/MEU team is currently conducting a regularly-scheduled deployment.
While in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theater security cooperation, and forward naval presence operations to reinforce to the United States’ commitment to partner nations in the region.
“As a forward-deployed force, we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes,” said Capt. Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron 1. “The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”
Following a six-month comprehensive, predeployment training period, the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. The training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods that collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks including deep air support, close air support, offensive air support, and electronic warfare.
“When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.
The Essex ARG comprises amphibious assault ship USS Essex, amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore. During deployment, they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, Amphibious Squadron One, the “Blackjacks” of HSC-21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 13th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element made up of VMM-166 (Rein.) and VMFA 211; the ground combat element of Battalion Landing Team 3/1; and the logistics combat eement of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.