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USS Boxer, Marine Unit Prepare For Integration Exercise

By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2008 – The USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are preparing to deploy in support of unified combatant commanders, the strike group commander said this week.

The sailors and Marines are at sea conducting the composite training unit exercise, or COMPTUEX, in scenarios they may face in upcoming deployments, Navy Capt. Peter K. Dallman told bloggers and online journalists Nov. 12.

The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group is composed of five Navy ships, and the 13th MEU is made up of 2,200 Marines aboard three amphibious ships, Dallman said.

The objective, Dallman said, is to expand the 13th MEU and the Boxer ESG teams’ primary capabilities, which include maritime security operations, decisive combat operations and other operations, including humanitarian assistance.

“We are fully integrated and capable teams, and we are prepared to carry out a broad spectrum of mission actions from any unified combatant commander,” he said.

Dallman and Marine Corps Col. Dave Coffman, commander of the 13th MEU, “have a support team relationship, which means that neither one of us works for the other, but rather we work together,” he said.

“More importantly, this relationship produces a flexible configuration that makes the Boxer ESG/13th MEU team an effective and versatile platform for not only protecting combat power, but also accomplishing other missions such as providing humanitarian assistance and or disaster relief,” he added.

While the units are preparing for future missions, Coffman said, they have yet to be tasked by U.S. Pacific Command or U.S. Central Command. “So we’ll take our mission list and be prepared to go both ways,” he said. Models are in place for whatever the mission may be, he added.

While the Boxer group has specialized in working from sea-to-shore capabilities, Coffman emphasized, “We can do it any way they want it to.”

One challenge the MEU and ESG have is lightening the load of all the equipment, Coffman said.

“We’re too heavy,” he acknowledged. “We’ve got some heavy stuff and some big stuff, and it’s not matched to … the lag of building ships and how quickly we can turn around vehicles.”

But the USS New Orleans has increased capacity in terms of vehicle stowage, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell is sailing with the group, he said.

The primary purpose of bringing the Boutwell is to show other countries how the U.S. Coast Guard operates in coastal patrol, law enforcement and coastal defense, said Navy Capt. Mark Cedrun, commanding officer of the USS Boxer.

“We’re working with many coalition partners to fulfill those tasks in order to create stable conditions at sea which are going to allow economic prosperity to continue and enhance global security,” he said.

(Navy Seaman William Selby works for New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

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