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U.S., Kuwait Armed Forces Bilateral Amphibious Exercise Concludes

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aren Everett, USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Public Affairs | March 08, 2016

KUWAIT – The Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group (KSGARG) participated in Amphibious Landing Exercise 2016 (PHIBLEX-16) from Feb. 14 to Mar. 9.

PHIBLEX-16 is a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT)-led 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. 

U.S. Navy exercise participants included Amphibious Squadron Four (CPR 4), the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24). U.S. Marine Corps participants included the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade Command Element, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF). Task Force 50, 51, 53 and 56 joined the Kuwait Armed Forces in the Arabian Gulf and ashore.

“The primary goal of PHIBLEX-16 is to train as an ARG/MEU,” said U.S. Marine Maj. James W. Birchfield, 26th MEU operations officer. “This exercise provided us the ability to aggregate as a MEU and conduct amphibious assault operations, projecting the MEU ashore from amphibious ships.”

“The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was able to enhance our operability and cooperation with our Kuwaiti partners,” said Navy Capt. Augustus P. Bennett, commodore of Amphibious Squadron Four. “The ship-to-shore movement of personnel and equipment by LCAC, LCU and AAV amphibious vessels, including MV-22 Osprey and CH-53 aircraft, were orchestrated and pre-planned events during PHIBLEX-16, executed flawlessly by all participants. The U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Kuwait Armed Forces came together as one coalition force and increased the tactical proficiency of our ships and personnel, and enhanced regional security and stability in the region.”  

During the exercise, nearly 1,000 Marines from the Echo, Fox and Gulf companies of the MEU embarked aboard Arlington, Oak Hill and Kearsarge, and were transported to shore to participate in PHIBLEX-16.

As part of the exercise, Marines conducted scenario-based drills such as medevacs of injured personnel as well as an embassy reinforcement drill. 

In addition to scenario-based training, Marines were able to train in basic warrior skills, such as combat-life savers, small unit leader courses and live-fire ranges.

“All in all, about a thousand Marines were able to participate in live-fire and sustainment training for 10 days,” said Birchfield. “The combat logistics battalion was able to exercise their primary role, which is maintenance, sustainability and support of infantry operations.”

Arlington, on her maiden voyage, moored in the Port of Shuaiba, Kuwait during PHIBLEX-16 and was the reception platform for the 25th anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait with music performed by the Air Force Central Command Band “Galaxy.”

Among the distinguished visitors for the ceremonial occasion was the U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Douglas Silliman; Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan; Commander of Naval Forces Kuwait, Maj. Gen. Khaled Al-Kandari and Commander of Task Force 51, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy.

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group consist of Amphibious Squadron Four (CPR 4), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Arlington (LPD 24) and USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.