EAST SEA (NNS) -- On March 7, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 staff climbed aboard an MV-22 Osprey and flew to USS Boxer (LHD 4), off the coast of the Republic of Korea (ROK), in preparation for exercise Ssang Yong 2016.
From the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, Capt. H. B. Le, commodore, DESRON-7, and several members of his staff served as sea combat commander (SCC) for the exercise, which was led by Rear Adm. John Nowell, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, and Brig. Gen. John Jansen, commanding general, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).
As SCC, DESRON-7 was responsible for defense of the amphibious task force (DATF) against surface and sub-surface threats. Among other warfare commanders, USS Shiloh (CG 67), home ported in Yokosuka, Japan, performed duties as air defense commander for the exercise.
"This was the first time our staff participated in Ssang Yong and we welcomed the opportunity and challenge to be SCC for such a large and important exercise with our ROK allies," said Le. "Onboard USS Boxer, we had the chance to work with several ROK Navy officers from Maritime Tactical Squadron 71, who observed as we executed SCC duties in support of a combined ESG."
Le added that he looks forward to participating in more exercises like Ssang Yong that "flex the skill sets of a traditional DESRON in innovative ways."
Ssang Yong, which means "Twin Dragons," is a biennial combined exercise conducted by U.S. and ROK Navy and Marine Corps forces to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a range of military operations from disaster relief to expeditionary operations.
Ssang Yong 2016, the largest multinational amphibious exercise ever conducted, included nearly 20,000 sailors and Marines, 19 ships, a ROK submarine and aircraft from both nations. The exercise culminated in a combined MEB-size landing March 12 with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), 13th MEU and ROK Marine Corps Marine Task Force (MTF) from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Boxer and ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) amphibious ready groups.
"Exercises like Ssang Yong are extremely valuable opportunities to plan and operate in a complex maritime environment," said Le. "We are better operators and warfighters for having participated in Ssang Yong."
In addition to the U.S. and ROK personnel, approximately 100 soldiers from the Australian Army and 60 personnel from the Royal New Zealand Army participated in the exercise.
DESRON-7 also leads the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series, the U.S. Navy's premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, as well as other bilateral and multilateral exercises in the region. 2016 marks the fourth consecutive year that "The Golden Arrows" of DESRON-7 have led CARAT on behalf of Commander, Task Force 73.
In December 2012, DESRON-7 executed an historic homeport shift from San Diego, and joined 7th Fleet's forward deployed naval forces, operating primarily throughout Southeast Asia in support of the Navy's rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific. In addition to participating in regional exercises such as Ssang Yong and CARAT, DESRON-7 serves as the primary tactical commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.
For more news from Destroyer Squadron 7, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/ds7/.