VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) — Members of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 (ESG-2), Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), and 2nd Marine Logistics Group conducted an annual, rapid-response planning and loading exercise (LOADEX) at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Aug. 27-28.
Experts from across the commands trained together by loading, unloading and moving personnel and equipment from land to sea and back using ship-to-shore connectors and amphibious shipping. The goal of the exercise was to strengthen rapid response capabilities to support recovery efforts following domestic and foreign disasters.
"It's vital to conduct these exercises together to continually figure out what works and what doesn't work - before a crisis hits - to maximize our effectiveness," said Cmdr. Christopher Wells, USS Whidbey Island's (LSD 41) commanding officer.
The exercise included creating load out plans and moving equipment which can be used for disaster response. Loads included cargo re-supply vehicles, forklifts, and generators, which were loaded onto to amphibious ships, USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and USS Arlington (LPD 24). The ships would then transport the equipment to impacted areas during disaster relief operations.
Multiple loading methods, including Navy's Improved Modular Lighterage System (INLS) and side port operations were tested in order to validate various load configurations and options. INLS, constructed and operated by Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 (ACB-2), is a floating dock system which can form ferries, causeway piers, or ships' ramp roll-off discharge platforms, to offer adaptable delivery methods of vehicles and critical supplies.
"We are uniquely capable of supporting Defense Support of Civil Authorities, similar to the way we enabled logistics in Haiti," said Cmdr. John Anderson, executive officer of ACB-2. "We support logistics over the shore including ship-to-shore transportation of equipment and material. This is a valuable training opportunity to expand our interoperability with supported agencies."
Transport using amphibious shipping holds several advantages to include simultaneous delivery of large amounts of personnel, equipment and supplies for immediate use. In addition, seaward delivery reduces stress on recovering roads and bridges, which typically follow natural or manmade disasters.
"The amphibious force has been called the 9-1-1 force of the Navy because we provide quick and effective response," said Master Chief Petty Officer Peter Dyksterhouse, USS Whidbey Island's command master chief. "I like to think of LSDs as the pick-up truck of the force... when you need something big moved; you always rely on that friend with the truck to get the job done."
Amphibious forces have responded to numerous crises, in support of local and federal governments, to include Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the nation of Haiti.
The Navy's East Coast based disaster response is divided into two distinct command and control structures. Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) is led by NECC to provide support to U.S. federal or local governments, if requested. ESG-2 oversees foreign Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response (HA/DR) to include providing recommendations to assist planners in developing an executable plan.
"As the combat cargo assistant, my role is to validate, educate and guide collaborating forces during the scenario as well as provide plan deconfliction, if necessary," said Gunnery Sergeant Mario Pacheco, ESG-2's combat cargo assistant.
In addition to overseeing and managing the readiness of the amphibious fleet, ESG-2 is a joint, rapid and robust deployable staff. Through oversight of 24 tenant commands, ESG-2 supports the entire range of military operations to include theater security cooperation events and major combat operations.
For more news from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/esg2/.