ARABIAN GULF - The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), began Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 16 in the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 20.
PHIBLEX 16 is a bilateral amphibious and ground exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Kuwait Armed Forces to increase tactical proficiency, broaden levels of cooperation, enhance mutual capability and support long-term regional security and stability.
Also participating in PHIBLEX 16 are the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), Amphibious Squadron FOUR (CPR 4), Task Force 50, Task Force 51, Task Force 53, Task Force 56 and the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF).
“We’ve taken multiple task forces, organized them under one goal and mission and tried to figure out how to get the most out of it, which is probably what we’d do in a real-world crisis,” said Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces. “The point is to do an amphibious operation that brings everyone together on one coalition force.”
Donegan said one goal of PHIBLEX 16 is to train in situations with a lot of moving parts and enhance naval integration.
Staff members of CTF-51 and the 5th MEB embarked USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) for the exercise.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of Task Force 51, 5th MEB and the overall operational commander for PHIBLEX 16, said participants will conduct an aggregated large-scale amphibious operation.
“There is a lot of attention, especially in the Marine Corps and the Navy about regaining our amphibious capability in a high threat scenario against a high-end competitor,” said Mundy. “What we’re trying to do here is something that fits the other 90 percent.”
U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Michael Roach of the 5th MEB said the U.S. Navy, Marines and their counterparts in the Kuwait Armed Forces will work together to conduct ship-to-shore movements of personnel and equipment using amphibious vehicles such as landing craft air cushions (LCAC) and our various aircraft, non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO), medical exercises ashore, subject matter expert exchanges and sustainment training.
“The key to this operation will be the synergistic effects of all elements of the amphibious force acting in unity to reassure our partners and deter our adversaries,” said Roach.
PHIBLEX 16 is scheduled to last approximately 10 days and will be conducted at sea in the Arabian Gulf and ashore in Kuwait.
Donegan said that throughout PHIBLEX 16, participants will be trying to answer two important questions by ensuring that the exercise will be as realistic as possible.
“Where are we missing chances to bring in added benefits from other units?” asked Donegan. “Where can we go out and test new concepts? I’ll ask for as many lessons learned as we can get.”
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group is comprised of the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Arlington (LPD 24), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.