ABOARD USS ESSEX, North Persian Gulf (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 executed the first ESG flag staff cross deck at sea Sept. 9, from USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) to USS Essex (LHD 2).
Once the turnover was completed and the ESG 3 watch was established, Essex Expeditionary Strike Group was officially activated Sept. 10.
Essex will fill a vital role as flagship for Marine Brig. General Joseph V. Medina, commander, ESG 3 and his staff. Medina assumed the duties as commander, Task Force (CTF) 58 June 30. The ESG 3/CTF 58 staff is responsible for Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Northern Persian Gulf, to include protection of Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) off the coast of Iraq.
"This is a first, but it makes sense. Our cross deck to Essex supports the Navy's philosophy of 'presence with a purpose,'" said Medina. "The purpose of the flag staff is to bridge theater-wide operational plans and tactical execution at the Task Force level."
The ESG 3/CTF 58 flag staff also provides the ability to simultaneously plan and execute multiple missions, thereby avoiding task saturation at the subordinate levels.
"The continued presence of the flag staff will provide enhanced command and control (C2) to two very different mission sets in support of the U.S. 5th Fleet Maritime Campaign Plan," said Lt. Col. Tim G. Callahan, ESG 3 future plans officer. "First, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, CTF 58 will continue to provide C2 for defense of ABOT, KAAOT and the undersea pipeline extending from the Al Faw Peninsula. Second, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, CTF 58 will continue to provide C2 for offensive operations intended to eradicate international terrorist organizations operating within the Northern Arabian Gulf and Iraqi territorial waters."
The flag staff cross deck is further proof of the ESG concept, demonstrating flexibility, agility and mobility not only of units, but also the flexibility of personnel. The challenge was in reestablishing the Tactical Flag Command Center, which is the watch station for ESG 3/CTF 58 staff.
"With limited space for an embarked CTF staff, Essex was flexible and configured an existing underutilized space for the CTF 58 tactical watch. In this space, our watch monitors the disposition and employment of tactical forces," said Lt. Cmdr. Tom Lechleitner, ESG 3 deputy chief of staff for Command and Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I). "This watch ensures the protection of valuable resources in the Northern Arabian Gulf through our subordinate warfare commanders."
Due to limited space, Lechleitner was responsible for prioritizing gear and equipment necessary to maintain a seamless transfer to Essex and guarantee a sufficient level of efficiency to accomplish the mission. Only essential and compatible equipment was transferred to Essex.
The outgoing amphibious squadron made up of Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 5, Belleau Wood, USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Comstock (LSD 45), turned over its share of responsibility for MSO operations to USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). Mobile Bay will eventually turn over some MSO responsibilities to Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 11, who simultaneously arrived on station. The newly arrived commands were Essex, USS Juneau (LPD 10), USS Harper's Ferry (LSD 49) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Led by the ESG 3 staff, the Essex Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit, along with various cruisers, destroyers, patrol craft, Coast Guard vessels and coalition forces, now make up Task Force 58, and contribute to security and stability operations in the Northern Persian Gulf.
The ESG 3 staff is based out of San Diego and has been operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility since June 30.
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc.