Friday, September 04, 2015

Carter Reaffirms U.S.-Saudi Strategic Relationship’s Importance

WASHINGTON, September 4, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter today reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia strategic relationship during a meeting here with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, Cook said the leaders discussed mutual concerns in the region, including the ongoing crisis in Yemen and the importance of reaching a negotiated political settlement there.

Building on commitments made at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit hosted by President Barack Obama at Camp David in May and Carter’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia in July, the secretary took the opportunity to further conversations on Saudi Arabia’s underlying defense requirements and supporting Saudi efforts to build capacity to counter new and emerging security challenges within the region, Cook said.

Future Regional Defense Capabilities

Carter reiterated that future regional defense capabilities not only would need to provide conventional deterrence, but also would have to address unconventional and asymmetric threats the region is most likely to face from Iran, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and others, the press secretary said.

The secretary also participated in a meeting at the White House earlier today with Obama and King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, along with other members of the Saudi delegation, Cook added.

USS Germantown Wraps Up CARAT 2015

From Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Will Gaskill, USS Germantown Public Affairs

SATTAHIP NAVAL BASE, Thailand (NNS) -- The amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) completed their third phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise in Sattahip, Thailand on Sept. 2.

From July to September, Germantown traveled to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to participate in CARAT exercises with embarked elements of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines (2/3 Marines), Coastal Riverine Squadron (CORIVRON) 3 and 4, Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) Far East Detachment, Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EOD MU) 5 and elements of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.

"CARAT exercises allow our forces to continue enhancing our interoperability while addressing shared maritime security priorities," said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "The exercise demonstrates our commitment to our regional partnerships and stability and security in the Asia-Pacific."

Making their first appearance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) CORIVRON 3, from San Diego and CORIVRON 4, from Virginia Beach, participated in multiple patrol exercises during CARAT. Their participation in CARAT was unique, as their missions typically take them to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR in support of special operations, high value asset escort and insertion/extraction in combat zones.

"This was all new to us and it was a logistical challenge because we had to carefully plan transport and joint training exercises with our partner nations," said Lt. Nathaniel McLaughlin, officer in charge of CORIVRON 4. "We have many capabilities, and we had to coordinate how to best exchange our subject matter experts' knowledge and provide training, as well as learn from our partner nations."

For a ship built around its amphibious well deck capabilities, this experience was a first for Germantown as well.

"Working with the riverine control boats (RCBs) was a new experience for everyone," said Cmdr. Gary Harrington, commanding officer of USS Germantown. "This was the first time they have been utilized on Germantown, as well as in the 7th Fleet AOR."

The Marines participated in numerous beach landing exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) training with each of the participant countries.

"The joint training we did with our partner forces really paid off, and this mission was a resounding success," said Lt. Col. Brian Coyne, commanding officer of the 2/3 Marines. "Our mission is to train to be able to fight tonight, and we can't do that without our partnership with the Navy."

Germantown's full amphibious capabilities were well utilized, having launched landing craft air cushion (LCAC) craft, amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC) and RCBs throughout each CARAT. The ship also completed flight qualifications during the exercise, landing SH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters during touch-and-go operations.

As part of a different type of aerial demonstration, BQM-74E target drones were launched from Germantown's flight deck. These slender orange missiles were used during CARATs Indonesia and Thailand for those countries to test out their self-defense targeting systems. Leaving the deck at speeds approaching 300 knots, the drones flew a course simulating an inbound hostile missile, allowing other ships to target and fire upon them.

"I could not be more pleased with the performance during CARAT, not just on the U.S. side, but also with the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand," said Harrington. "The credit goes to every Sailor involved in these events. Each individual plays a key role in safety and mission success."

In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Blue Ridge Completes Summer Patrol, Returns to Yokosuka

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jared Harral, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff returned to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka after concluding a three-month patrol Sept. 2.

During the summer patrol, Blue Ridge visited five ports in four different countries, strengthening relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and boosting theater security cooperation.

"The staff and crew did a tremendous job during this patrol," said Capt. Kyle P. Higgins, commanding officer of Blue Ridge. "It's amazing what they were able to accomplish, balancing a busy schedule of work, certifications and exercises."

Blue Ridge played an important role in the joint exercises Talisman Sabre (TS) and Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), serving as the joint task force command center for all military branches during TS and the command center for all naval forces during UFG.

"Through these exercises, the participating forces work to improve their inter-operational proficiencies through military-to-military integration," said Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Robert Thomas. "Working with our partner nations, we are able to ensure our ability to work together, strengthening relationships and fostering peace and stability throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations."

During the port visits, nearly 300 of the ship's crew and embarked staff also took opportunities to participate in 15 community service events at locations such as children's hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, and even the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia.

"The goal of the community service events is to build upon established relationships with our host countries," said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian Jewell. "They provide an amazing opportunity to experience different cultures and to interact with the local community at each port we visit."

The ship also underwent some major inspections, including the Medical Readiness Inspection, Fleet Support Operations - Medical and TYCOM Material Inspection.

"Every department had to come together in order to complete these inspections," said Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Omar Saeed, the ship's senior medical officer. "The crew worked as a team to get the job done, and the result was some of the highest scores we have ever received."

During the patrol, the ship made stops in Guam, Australia, Japan and South Korea, covering more than 12,000 nautical miles, and more than 900 hours during its 77-day deployment.

"We had a great patrol and visited some amazing countries," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Page Gibson. "However, I can't wait to see my family and spend some much needed quality time with them."

Blue Ridge will now enter an extended selected restricted availability (SRA) period, allowing the crew and ship repair facility workers to conduct vital maintenance on the ship, increasing its lifespan.

"Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of work ahead for the crew during SRA," said Higgins. "However, with the successful completion of SRA, the crew has an exciting 2016 schedule to look forward to."

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, for nearly 36 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, Blue Ridge is committed to strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific region.