USS WASP, At Sea (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) started "D-Day" operations Feb. 6 as Exercise Bold Alligator switches from its initial stages into full exercise combat operations.
"D-Day" marks the transition to land operations, where more than 3,600 Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen representing 11 countries will begin to take back beaches in Virginia and North Carolina during a complex training scenario in which parts of the United States belong to hostile forces.
"This was the first day," said Lt. Cmdr. George Pastoor, lead planner for Bold Alligator. Pastoor added that the strike group will continue putting people on the beaches over the next few days.
Bold Alligator is the largest amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces in the last decade and since it is based on real-world situations, the exercise will run in real time and will not end until the mission is complete.
Wasp is serving as the flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 for the exercise, and the ship's crew spent the past few days loading the equipment and personnel necessary to conduct well deck and flight deck operations.
"We are here to train like we fight," said Rear Adm. Kevin D. Scott, ESG-2 commander, in a ship-wide address over the ship's intercom system. "I know we are ready; to not only learn but to strike. Give it everything you've got and we will be victorious."
While Wasp handled command and control operations during the first day of D-Day operations, its crew will launch landing craft, air cushions and amphibious assault vehicles along with coordinating efforts with international forces and carrying out normal day-to-day evolutions.
"It's the most amphibious operations the ship's done in two years," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/EXW) Joseph Costa, a member of Wasp's well deck control crew. "This allows the junior Sailors to see how their efforts contribute to the ship's larger mission."
The overall exercise involves 24 ships at sea conducting operations as well as numerous synthetic ships and personnel that aid in the overall training.
Pastoor said Bold Alligator involved a huge planning effort that went on for a year, starting in January 2011. The future plan for Bold Alligator is to switch between live and synthetic exercises each year.
"We worked hard for this," said Pastoor. "When you see all the ships in their place and ready to go, all the planning is worth it."
Wasp began Bold Alligator Jan. 30 and is expected to continue in the scenario until Feb 12.
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