GULF OF ALASKA (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) is one of three U.S. Navy destroyers participating in this year’s exercise Northern Edge 2019 (NE19) in the Gulf of Alaska, which began May 13.
NE19 is the largest joint military training exercise on and above central Alaska ranges and the Gulf of Alaska, which prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Pacific.
"This is a very demanding operating area and not something we're used to,” said Capt. David Fowler, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 23. “We, as a Navy, need to get acclimated to these regions and work in a joint environment to gain a better appreciation for what our sister services do and what they bring to the table, because should we ever need to truly defend our nation against adversaries, it is going to take all of us working together to achieve that objective."
NE19 is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises in 2019. Along with USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 11, other participating Navy ships from Carrier Strike Group Nine (CSG-9) include USS John Finn (DDG 113), USS Kidd (DDG 100), and USNS Henry J Kaiser (T-AO 187).
“We have a unique opportunity to participate in a joint exercise effort in a dynamic environment, not only with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, but also with the Air Force, Army, National Guard, and Marines,” said Cmdr. Matthew Foster, commanding officer of Russell. “This is our first joint exercise since completing a significant maintenance availability and material inspection. We view it as a tremendous training opportunity for Russell Sailors to integrate into an environment with over 10,000 other U.S. military personnel.”
The exercise allows Russell and the other Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to demonstrate their contributions to the strike group.
“Our multi-mission capabilities and operational flexibility make us valuable to the strike group,” Foster said. “We also have the ability to operate with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) or independently, as needed.”
According to Foster, being able to track and identify surface and air contacts is one of the most important abilities in any defensive posture against an opposing threat.
“Our radar system is a focal point in creating a common tactical picture to identify threats and neutralize them,” said Chief Fire Controlman (Aegis) Zachary Quirk, combat fire control leading chief petty officer. “We act as a giant shield for our strike group and, being in coordination with the other destroyers, are an irreplaceable asset.”
Russell faces many unique opportunities and challenges participating in NE19.
“Operating during this exercise, with so many moving parts, and in this geographic area requires a lot communication,” said Lt. Keith Hollis, plans and tactics officer assigned to Russell. “We have to create a level of cohesiveness outside of our strike group, with other branches of the military.”
This exercise has also presented Russell with a chance to work with Alaskan fishing vessels, a practice only seen in the Pacific Northwest.
“Working with fishing vessels to coordinate military formations is something I have never seen before,” Hollis said. “This is an opportunity for our Sailors to get out and see a new part of the country and for Alaskans to be a part of what we’re doing.”
NE19 provides Russell and CSG-9 with more than 50,000 square miles in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex in which to operate, along with a strong maritime support network for exercise participants which cannot be found anywhere else in the Indo-Pacific.
For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.