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Amphibious Squadron 11, USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with embarked Marines got underway from White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 12 for an exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.
Annual Exercise 21G (ANNUALEX) is a yearly bilateral training exercise for U.S. and Japanese maritime forces that enhances the ability of the two forces to work together increasing interoperability and communication.
Essex ARG will join with the USS George Washington carrier strike group, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships and numerous other US ships in conducting one of the most robust naval exercises in the Western Pacific.
Warfare areas practiced will include anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, ballistic missile defense and anti-air warfare.
Sailors from various ships exchange personnel to aid in communication and understanding of how the other nation's ships operate.
"This is my first time on a U.S. ship," said Ensign Masashi Ikezaki, liaison officer to USS Essex from JS Ashigara, "It's been great to meet U.S. Sailors over meals and train together."
The exercise also provides an opportunity to train and work together to develop professional relationships.
"I enjoy working with the Japanese military, it gives us the opportunity to work together as a team," said Lt.j.g. Terence Taylor, Officer in Charge of the air cushion landing crafts (LCACs). "The cultural integration is something you don't get to experience as much of stateside."
ANNUALEX 21G is one in a continuing series of regular exercises with the JMSDF. It is a routine, bilateral exercise held annually between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF. Approximately 8,500 U.S. naval personnel will participate in the exercise.
Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet is leading the Essex ESG and reports to Rear Adm. Kevin Donegan, Commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet, who is commanding all U.S. naval forces in the exercise.