U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (NNS) -- U.S. Marines assigned to the 15th Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) and Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Team Central Command, along with the Sailors aboard the expeditionary support ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), completed combat rehearsals for Alligator Dagger 2017 Sept. 16.
Led by Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Expedition Brigade, Alligator Dagger - a dedicated, unilateral combat rehearsal that combined Navy and Marine Corps units of the America Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th MEU to practice, rehearse and exercise integrated capabilities available to U.S. Central Command both afloat and ashore - tested USS Puller's maritime capabilities for crisis response and contingency operations within U.S. 5th Fleet.
"We deployed with the ability to embark other forces including the mine hunting unit which allows us to sweep a safe path to the beach for the amphibious forces," said Lt Cmdr. Douglas Ivey, the ship's combat system's officer. "Since then we've been used as a support vessel for various aviation assets, acted as a target vessel for visit, board, search and seizure exercises and provided the mine hunting boats for surface exercises."
Commissioned Aug. 17, Puller is the first U.S. ship to be commissioned internationally and the first of the Afloat Forward Staging Base variant. Due to its versatility and range of capabilities, the ship is being explored for a variety of missions it could be used for.
"A lot of what we're doing in Alligator Dagger 2017 is learning what this ship can do," said Ivey. "This is a new platform. It was originally designed for Aviation Mine Counter Measures and Special Operation Forces support, but now that we're using it in an operational environment, we realized that USS Puller has the potential to support operations in a magnitude of different ways. "
The ship also demonstrated their ability to support training for the 15th MEU's Low Altitude Air Defense Detachment (LAAD), further strengthening its blue-green team integration.
"While we were onboard we had the opportunity to perform live fire gun shoots, weapons training with Puller Sailors and establish training plans for defense from low altitude air threats for the ship," said Capt. Thomas Rees, officer in charge, LAAD. "Any time we have a chance to train our personnel on a different platform or environment it improves their ability to defend no matter what the surroundings."
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