SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines and six ships of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 departed San Diego Feb. 15 for a six-month deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.
The strike group completed their last training work-up, Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), Jan. 26 and its two other required exercises, ESG Integration Exercise (ESGINT) and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), late last year. Collectively, these exercises prepared the group for the difficult challenges that a deployment presents.
"The magnificent Sailors and Marines of ESG 3 will do their duty as a vital part of America's forward deployed combat forces," said Marine Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, ESG 3 commander, who is embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the strike group's flagship. "I expect ESG 3 to make a positive difference wherever she sails, whether that involves actual combat operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian assistance operations, or anything in between. We bring a lot of capability to the table and are ready to perform an incredibly diverse mission set."
While in the Persian Gulf, ESG 3 will conduct maritime security operations (MSO), which set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO also deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
"Maritime security operations are critical not only to the economy of the region but to the world. The oil shipments coming in and out of this region are critical to the world's economy and furthermore, are very critical to the economic development of many of the countries here including Iraq," said Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter on a recent five-day visit to the Middle East.
Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Amphibious Group (COMPHIBGRU) 3, said the strike group has a "heavy responsibility" but is up to the challenge.
"If you look back at every prior ESG, you will find that they have conducted an operation of some sort," said Ames. "They have been employed, not standing off and looking. The nation has touched them for some mission, and the Sailors and Marines of ESG 3 should therefore expect that when they leave, that the nation at some moment during their six-month deployment will look to them for the leadership and the warfighting skills to execute the task," said Ames.
Actively participating in a deployment gives many Sailors and Marines a great sense of patriotism and pride.
"It makes me feel pretty good to know I'm supporting what many of us believe in, the freedom of our country," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Hounshell, who will work for Peleliu's combat cargo during the deployment.
Jensen said he recognizes the devotion to duty and sacrifices of the Sailors and Marines under his command.
"Like every Sailor and Marine on board, I'm tremendously proud of this opportunity to serve our nation in a combat area. ESG 3 is mindful that America is depending upon us to successfully accomplish our mission and to bring America's sons and daughters home safely when the deployment is over," said Jensen.
Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate (AW) Jonathan Sison, a native of the Philippines who will deploy aboard Peleliu, extended his enlistment just so he could stay for the entire deployment.
"I can't even put into words how proud I am to be serving my country. [Going on deployment] is a big sacrifice as I'm leaving my family behind," said Sison, a division officer in one of Peleliu's intermediate maintenance shops.
ESG 3 is comprised of Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Peleliu, the guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzales (DDG 66), the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), Tactical Air Control Squadron(TACRON) 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.
For related news, visit the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lha5/.