GWANGYANG, Republic of Korea - Amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG), embarked M1A1 Abram tanks and Marines from Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division along with members of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) March 14 to prepare for the Assault Follow-On Echelon (AFOE) portion of Exercise Ssang Yong 16 (SY16).
Ashland will be transporting the 6th RAR and the Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division and their tanks during the AFOE portion of SY16, which includes an amphibious landing on a beach near Pohang, Republic of Korea, to join the other U.S. and Republic of Korea Marines on the beach.
"One of the most rewarding elements of a large-scale multinational exercise like SY16 is conducting operations with partner militaries such as the Republic of Korea and Australia,” said Lt. Shawn Callihan, operations officer assigned to Ashland. “We last operated with our allies from the Royal Australian Regiment [RAR] during the 2015 exercise Talisman Saber. During this phase of SY16, Ashland will provide amphibious lift for RAR troops as part of the Assault Follow-on Echelon forces. We have the privilege to work together frequently and in doing so continue to enhance the strong relationship between our two forces."
Platoon Sgt. Glen Lawrence, assigned to the 6th RAR, stated that the RAR will disembark Ashland via a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) as the AFOE force for the exercise.
“We have been training for our part in SY16 for about 6 weeks now, and are more than ready to join our allies on the beach,” said Lawrence. “Once the AFOE force gets to the beach, we will integrate with the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade [MEB] and the Republic of Korea Marines to engage in rotation system training and live fire drills that will strengthen our ability to operate together as allies.”
Ashland will also launch embarked Marines assigned to the Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division and their M1A1 Abram tanks via LCAC during the evolution.
“We have done amphibious operations before as a unit,” said Capt. Adam Link, assigned to Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division. “However, it was in a limited capacity, so we are excited to get our Marines aboard the ship and participate in a multinational amphibious landing exercise such as SY16. I believe this training is going to be a high point for many of our Marines.”
In addition to Ashland, amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) embarked Marines and tanks from the Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division and provided amphibious lift to the beach in support of the AFOE portion of SY16.
Ashland is assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 2016, a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations-from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.