ABOARD USS NASSAU (NNS) -- Sailors aboard multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) successfully completed their tasking as the flagship for the Combined Joint Task Force Exercise (CJTFEX 04-2), Operation Blinding Storm, June 19.
The joint coalition training exercise involved more than 28,000 U.S. and allied service members. Nassau hosted Sailors and Marines from the United Kingdom and Netherlands, who joined with U.S. forces to explore the tactical field of operations in intelligence, combat systems, Marine engagement and logistical flight operations.
"This exercise provided all participants with invaluable experience in joint and coalition operations, and I was especially impressed with the innovation and technical acumen enabling this Joint National Training Center event," said Vice Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet and commander, Joint Forces Task Force.
Nassau's mission during the exercise was multi-dimensional, which allowed Nassau and her crew to display their capabilities in a variety of different ways. Nassau Sailors stayed busy conducting well deck and flight deck operations, as well as numerous damage control, engineering and other related training exercises.
Capt. Daniel Hartwell, commander, Amphibious Squadron 6, was impressed with the job done by Nassau's crew, especially considering the extended length of Nassau's recent dry-docking availability and the fact that Nassau has only begun her basic level training.
"Nassau was able to effectively participate in this complex, graduate-level exercise while supporting four embarked general and flag officers, and their staffs," he said.
For Sailors and Marines aboard Nassau, serving as the flagship for Operation Blinding Storm provided an opportunity to learn how several foreign services can work together. All participants were able to see what works in a unified mission and discover ways to improve in other areas.
"We were able to get out here and get into a battle rhythm, get staffs embarked and operate all of our systems," said Capt. John L. Green, Nassau's commanding officer. "This under way [period] has stressed the crew in the basic phase of the exercise, and the crew has responded wonderfully.
"[The] bottom line is, this will help us respond to any situation we are tasked with, and we will see continued readiness throughout the rest of the training cycle," Green added.
This CJTFEX differed from past exercises because an amphibious element was added to the usual air, land and maritime components. Also, the amphibious commander was not an American. Maj. Gen. J. B. Dutton, commandant of the Royal Marines and commander, U.K. Amphibious Forces, served as the commander, Amphibious Forces while embarked in Nassau.
"We have a long history of working with British and Dutch forces, but I think this exercise is unique, because the component level amphibious commander is Commander, U.K. Amphibious Forces, who is a Royal Marine General," said Hartwell. "Our ships and associated LCACs [Landing Craft, Air Cushion] and LCUs [Landing Craft, Utility] are in direct support of the British and Dutch ground scheme of maneuver."
Sailors and Marines alike agreed that the training has been arduous on many different levels.
NASSAU's deck department worked around the clock in order to keep up with the demands of CJTFEX.
"We have been at Condition One Alpha for more than 46 hours during this exercise," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) John Porter, leading petty officer of Nassau's deck department second division. "Everyone involved in the exercise has been tested."
When Nassau returns to Norfolk following CJTFEX, her crew will continue through qualifications and training exercises to continue the basic phase of the Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle.
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