Marines make history aboard British carrier

August 5th, 2007  

Topic: Marines make history aboard British carrier

Marines make history aboard British carrier

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jul 31, 2007 7:08:04 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — “Lusty” isn’t going to leave for England disappointed.

After a 10-day exercise off America’s Eastern Seaboard, the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious — or “Lusty” as it’s affectionately referred to by its crew — has made history and a new record with the help of a squadron of Marine AV-8B Harriers.
“Clearly, we’re breaking new territory,” Cmdr. Ian Annett, Illustrious’ head of weapons engineering, said in a telephone interview from the ship July 25. “We really haven’t operated on this scale in an exercise before. It’s the largest embarkation of U.S. aircraft on a U.K. carrier ever.”
Lusty’s crew welcomed to its deck Marine Attack Squadron 223, a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.-based squadron of 14 Harriers and about 200 leathernecks.
Operation Bold Step, a U.S.-led joint task force exercise, involved more than 16,000 military personnel from five countries. One goal of the exercise is to certify the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group for deployment later this year.
The exercise tested a broad spectrum of conflict from embargo operations to airstrike missions dropping precision ordnance onto simulated targets.
Marines have integrated with the ship’s 750-man crew, sharing berthing and swapping stories about how it’s done in the Royal Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.
Annett said there are no plans for a U.S. Harrier squadron to deploy with a British ship.
“Our joint force Harriers are very much committed to operations in Afghanistan at the moment,” he said. “This has allowed us to keep that capability warm.”
Marines broke a record on the ship’s deck, completing 72 take-offs and landings, Annett said.
Lt. Col. David Lancaster, 223’s commanding officer, said the exercise was a success.
“This deployment has certainly exceeded our expectations,” he said in a July 26 interview from the ship. “These guys have been such great hosts and bent over backwards to support us out here.”
One of the first challenges the Marines and British sailors had to overcome was basic procedural and language differences, he said. British Navy flight deck operators use different arm and hand signals than those of U.S. sailors.
Acronyms are different. Most of the time, the sailors and Marines could figure them out, Lancaster said. But there has been a fair share of blank stares, he said.
The squadron’s missions have essentially been the same — defensive counter air missions and close-air support.
“We are performing all of our usual missions. It’s the big, obvious ones, like there’s not a battalion of embarked Marines onboard. There’s not [an air combat element] onboard. We’re working it as part of the JTF, but we don’t have the embarked helicopters other than the four Sea Kings,” Lancaster said.
But they’re flying more often than they would on a traditional training exercise with an expeditionary strike group.
“We’re excited to have an opportunity to do something that we know is historic,” Lancaster said. “And, while we’re doing that, we’re figuring out how to operate with one of our most important allies.”
Annett said there are no formal plans to get U.S. Harriers aboard the ship again in the future, but “we’d love to see this happen again.”
August 5th, 2007  
US Marines embark Harriers onto HMS Illustrious (VIDEO)

ourteen United States AV8B Harrier Jets have joined up with the UK aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious ahead of a major joint exercise in the United States.

The Harriers, from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Marine Aircraft Group (MAG)14, have embarked on HMS Illustrious, the UK's and NATO's High Readiness Maritime Strike Carrier, ahead of a US-led Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFX) which is set to take place off the eastern coast of the United States.

The Air Group was welcomed on board by Commodore Alan Richards, Commander UK Strike Group and Commander of one of the three Carrier Task Groups for the exercise. He was joined by Captain Tim Fraser, the Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious.
"Today's embarkation of 14 AV8B Harriers from the USMC Marine Aircraft Group will allow the ship to train and test many aspects of the Maritime Strike capability in a demanding scenario alongside the US Navy," said Captain Fraser.
"It is an exciting time for the Ship's Company to operate with the US aircraft, demonstrating our versatility and flexibility whilst sharing best practice and integrating around 200 US personnel on board."
Colonel Eric 'Beans' Van Camp USMC, the Commander of the embarked Air Group added:
"This is the largest ever embarkation of AV8Bs on a foreign warship and it gives us a great and unique opportunity to train with one of our most important Coalition partners."
MAG 14 is a USMC aviation unit based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina that is currently composed of four AV-8B Harrier squadrons, four EA-6B Prowler squadrons, one KC-130 squadron and a maintenance and logistics squadron. The AV8B Harriers embarked in Illustrious are second-generation vertical/takeoff and landing aircraft similar to the GR7/9 Harriers operated by the UK Joint Harrier Force.
Throughout the exercise, 'Lusty' as she is known to her Ship's Company, and the 200 US Marines onboard, will be used as a platform by US Marine Corps AV8B Harrier jets alongside Sea King helicopters from Royal Naval Air Squadrons 857 and 771. She is also the first non-US warship to operate with the MV22 Osprey. HMS Illustrious will return to Portsmouth in August following the end of the exercise.

Major Jim Dresner, a UK Royal Marine pilot on exchange with the United States Marine Corps, who piloted the second AV8B on board, said:
"My exchange with the USMC has been fantastic, but flying from Illustrious for the forthcoming exercise will be one of the highlights and demonstrates the true flexibility of the aircraft and the UK Strike Capability."
"This is the largest ever embarkation of AV8Bs on a foreign warship and it gives us a great and unique opportunity to train with one of our most important Coalition partners." Colonel Eric 'Beans' Van Camp USMC

In another landmark event for the US Marine Corps Sergeant Major Courtney Kyle Curtis United States Marine Corps (USMC) became the first US Marine in history to re-enlist on a foreign warship during the preparations for the Joint Task Force Exercise.
Sergeant Major Curtis, a native of Panama City, Florida, raised his hand and re-affirmed his loyalty to the Constitution of the United States in a ceremony conducted in front of more than 200 Marines and the officers of the HMS Illustrious. He is currently serving as the Sergeant Major to the combined Marine Harrier force that embarked on ‘Lusty’ on 15 Jul 07.

He has served for 24 years and requested to re-enlist aboard HMS Illustrious as a sign of appreciation and recognition of the partnership between the two nations.
"My re-enlistment aboard this ship signifies a joint commitment to our way of life and the freedoms and values we both share in America and the UK. We fought together and we died together in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all in the name of freedom. I wanted to show my gratitude to the UK forces for their service."
Having re-enlisted, Sergeant Major Curtis will serve in the Marine Corps for another three years. He hopes to continue to serve as the Sergeant Major of MAG-14 and eventually serve as the Sergeant Major for a Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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