5th FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Sept. 19, 2017) – The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) with embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) concluded their participation in the scheduled combat rehearsal known as Alligator Dagger Sept. 11, in the vicinity of the Republic of Djibouti.
Alligator Dagger 2017, which began Sept. 4, is an amphibious combat rehearsal with the America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 15th MEU to increase proficiency and enable their forces to train for future operations within U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
From the beginning of the rehearsal, San Diego conducted well deck operations for amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) and landing craft, air cushions (LCAC), as well as flight operations in support of the 15th MEU during Alligator Dagger.
Fourteen AAVs assigned to the 15th MEU departed the San Diego to participate in a series of sustainment and nighttime navigation events off the shore of Djibouti.
“We are thankful to have such a great Blue-Green team on board San Diego,” said 1st Lt. Mark Dougherty, the AAV platoon leader. “One of the main objectives of San Diego is the launching and recovery of AAVs and with the teamwork and trust we have, things always run smoothly.”
Along with AAVs, San Diego conducted over 45 hours in well deck operation in launching two LCACs assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 on board in order to transport troops, vehicles and equipment ashore.
Additionally, San Diego conducted flight operations with embarked Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (reinforced) (VMM) 161.
“It felt good to participate in this combat rehearsal,” said Maj. Page Payne, VMM 161 detachment officer-in-charge. “We did more than 100 hours of flight time and completed approximately 150 missions. I’m glad we had one more time to go through the motions before (beginning our future operations).”
The America ARG, led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3, consists of the San Diego, the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52). They will operate with embarked forces of the 15th MEU, the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 1 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 15th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force comprised of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; an aviation combat element, VMM 161; a combat logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 15.
The ARG and 15th MEU provide senior U.S. military leadership and partners with a flexible force which can rapidly respond to contingencies and crises within a region. With ships, aircraft, troops, and logistical equipment, the ARG/MEU is a self-contained and self-sustained task force capable of conducting a wide range of military operations including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. While in the region, the southern California-based Navy-Marine Corps team falls under Naval Amphibious Forces, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and will help ensure the free flow of commerce, provide crisis response and support ongoing missions in the 5th Fleet area of operations.