ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." - Henry Ford
The United States military is reputable for embodying these words and service members further developed their comradery during Exercise Valiant Shield 16 on Guam and around the Mariana Islands Range Complex.
This biennial field training exercise focused on the integration of joint training in a blue-water environment among American forces from three very different task forces.
“We have to be able to operate together,” said Rear Adm. Brian Hurley, joint exercise control group director for Valiant Shield 16. “Valiant Shield is a high-end joint exercise that brings in all of the different participants. This is our one time to come together to work as a team so we can go off and better support our allies in the area. We have a refocus in the Pacific . . . and Guam is a perfect location to bring people from the United States, Japan and all over to participate.”
The U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps executed a myriad of missions for what is considered the largest, U.S.-only, joint exercise in the Pacific.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) operating as a carrier strike group, USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group-comprised of a destroyer, three amphibious ships with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked ,and a land based Marine Air-Ground Task Force from III Marine Expeditionary Force all came together to form one joint task force. These distinct maritime task forces had to be flexible to act as a united force.
Maritime security operations, amphibious operations, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises and other elements of complex warfighting brought aspects from each subordinate task force needed to execute Valiant Shield objectives.
“Most of the training events have been very successful,” said Air Force Maj.Anne Ridlon, mission planning cell chief for the joint exercise control group. “We need to continue integrating as an air, land and sea force. The Air Force does not fly the different types of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft here so it is hugely enabling for the air-war portion of what we are executing.”
Events such as the Sinking Exercise allowed participants to practice networking of multiple service aircraft sorties led by different command cells with one mission; to sink the decommissioned USS Rentz (FFG-46).
Aircrew journeyed more than 220 nautical miles off the coast of Guam to practice firing live missiles, harpoons and other weapons systems at the decommissioned ship.
Not only did the SINKEX help service members gain proficiency in tactics, targeting and live firing against a surface target at sea, it challenged their abilities in communication and team work.
“It’s based on taking out an enemy ship. . . and us working together to coordinate that fight,” said Marine Corps Col. Daniel Shipley, Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander and commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12. “It’s a lot bigger than just dropping bombs or shooting a torpedo at a ship, its looking at an opportunity to provide defensive measures to suppressing enemy fire against us . . . while coordinating strike missions with the Air Force and Navy to take out that threat.”
As the exercise continued, other training events highlighted the U.S. forces’ capacity to seamlessly work together on land, air and sea.
“We’ve done a number of events [to include] an amphibious mechanized raid as part of an airfield seizure,” said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander for Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “This is an event where we had Marine Corps air, Navy air, naval surface and Marine assault capabilities present.”
Rear Adm. Dalton's task force consisted of personnel from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 11 united under Expeditionary Strike Group 7. Expeditionary Strike Group 7 had to move into Guam's littorals for the mechanized raid while the carrier strike group stayed out in deeper waters, and III MEF's MAGTF launched an infantry company landing team and fighter jet sorties.
“We are designed for this,” said Dalton. “To work as a joint force and reinforce those skills. This is one of the many events as part of Valiant Shield and an opportunity for the Navy and Marine Corps team to exercise their capabilities with our Air Force teammates in order to maximize our abilities.”
This is the sixth exercise in the Valiant Shield series aimed at developing a “pre-integrated” joint force built from habitual relationships, improving the inter-service relationships and ties with allies in the region.
“Valiant Shield is an opportunity to hone our skills so we can be fight that much more efficiently and effectively” said Shipley. “If we were called upon for anything, we would definitely be ready.”
The exercise concluded September 23, 2016.