The final deployment workups for the Norfolk-based USS George H.W. Bush carrier strike group marked the first time carrier group sailors in such a weeks-long challenge were joined by Marines.
That gave sailors a chance to see how joint operations work, and gave the Marines a chance to operate with a larger force than usually deploys on an amphibious ships.
The Bush group was also joined by Italian destroyer Caio Duilio and submarines from Brazil and Colombia during its Composite Training Unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which certified it as ready for deployment later this year.
The carrier’s crew, many on their first tour of duty, steamed for more than 11,000 miles, completed Bush’s 80,000th launch and recovery of aircraft and the weapons department assembled 10 mines in record time.
“The relationships we forged and the processes we developed working with Caio Duilio will pay dividends as we move forward working side by side with our NATO partners in the future,” said Rear Adm. Dennis Velez, strike group commander.
Italian officers, including some who steamed on the Italian carrier Cavour, worked with their American counterparts in daily operations.
“They provided first-hand knowledge which allowed us to better understand how the Italian Navy operates, Velez said. During COMPTUEX, Caio Duilio worked in various scenarios on defending the group, as well as strait transits and vessel boardings.
Steaming with Caio Dulio was “a unique opportunity to participate in a fast-paced training evolution with a ship that brings different capabilities from the U.S. destroyers,” said Capt. Frank Brandon, commander of the Bush group’s destroyer squadron.
“This level of cooperation is essential between our navies and to strengthen the relationship and skills of our crews.” said Capt. Jacopo Rollo, Caio Duilio’s commanding officer.
The Marines, too, brought new approaches to a carrier group COMPTUEX.
When Marines go to sea, they do so on Navy amphibious ships — those with the big open doors on their sterns for launching and recovering landing craft and hovercraft.
But working with the carrier group was a chance to focus on scenarios and training on the latest doctrine, tactics and techniques of naval expeditionary warfare from the Virginia Beach-based Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Atlantic, said Col. Dennis Sampson, commanding officer of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“As we prepare to deploy with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, these realistic naval exercises provide opportunities for naval integration and opportunities to strengthen relationships,” Sampson said.
It also gave the Marines and staff from the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 2, which is in charge of the East Coast’s 15 amphibious ships as well as the sailors who operate landing craft, secure beaches and fly helicopters attached to those ships, a chance to practice operating as a much larger than normal combined force — like a Marine brigade with an expeditionary group, he said.
During COMPTUEX, the Bush strike group also drilled on transfer of command and control authority from the U.S. 2nd Fleet to NATO’s Striking and Support Forces — a transfer that has featured this year during the USS Harry S. Truman’s deployment, when it took on air policing work on NATO’s southeastern flank after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The training focuses on using NATO reporting procedures, messaging formats and chat capabilities, to ensure that communications as well as command and control are seamless.
For the Bush itself, COMPTUEX was a chance for a crew of mainly first-term sailors and a new commanding officer to get to know each other better.
“There is always a level of uncertainty when taking the helm as the new commanding officer, but Capt. [Robert] Aguilar handed over an all-star team for me,” said Capt. David Pollard, the Bush’s commander.
“The grit and tenacity demonstrated by each sailor in this underway says to me, that we have the right teachers and leaders aboard this warship,” he said.
“Each and every Sailor went above and beyond,” he said.
The Bush group comprises USS. George H.W. Bush, Carrier Air Wing 7, the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the destroyers USS Nitze, USS Truxtun, USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Delbert D. Black, as well as the ITS Caio Duilio.
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