SOUTH KOREA -- The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and Republic of Korea (ROK) navy completed Exercise Ssang Yong 2023 (SY23), April 3.
The Makin Island ARG, comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport docks USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), aimed to serve in the continuous collaborative efforts toward the U.S. and ROK alliance.
The partnership, first established in 1953, remains the linchpin of peace and security in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula.
“SY23 provides us the opportunity to engage with our ROK navy partners and conduct cultural exchanges during operations and key leader events,” said Capt. Tony Chavez, commanding officer of Makin Island. “Throughout this exercise, we were able to bolster our people-to-people relationships strengthening the alliance between our two countries.”
The exercise began March 23 with a press conference held on Makin Island with Capt. Chavez, Capt. Andria Slough, executive officer of Makin Island, Lt. Col. Eric Olson, executive officer of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and Capt. Lee Hee-Jung, Director of the Republic of Korea Fleet’s Warfare Development Directorate. The engagement focused on how the two countries work together to combat regional threats and plan to enhance interoperability throughout the exercise. The United States has maintained Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine personnel in the ROK for 70 years, demonstrating its commitment under the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty.
On March 24, Makin Island hosted a religious key leader engagement featuring Capt. David Yang, a chaplain of U.S. 7th Fleet, and Cmdr. Jason Constantine, Makin Island’s chaplain, who provided training on their role in the event of a mass casualty. Both chaplains showed religious leaders of the ROK Navy how the Makin Island ARG/13th MEU is a flexible, self-sustained crisis response force, capable of conducting operations from combat missions to humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Makin Island welcomed more distinguished visitors March 28, including Capt. Tae Yeol Kim, commodore of Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 53, and Lt. Gen. Kim Kye-Hwan, Commandant of the ROK Marine Corps, enhancing the people-to-people ties between the U.S. and the ROK—the central pillar of their multi-faceted relationship.
Also on March 28, the Makin Island ARG conducted an amphibious assault exercise, disembarking the 13th MEU component ashore via various rotor-winged aircraft and landing craft, air cushion operations, demonstrating covert and overt insertion and extraction, airborne operations and other specialized missions unique to Makin Island’s amphibious platform. The exercise strengthened the interoperability between the U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force and the ROK Marine task force, honing the ship-to-shore capabilities of each nation’s Navy and Marine Corps.
Toward the end of the exercise, senior enlisted leadership from Makin Island hosted a dinner with ROK liaison officers (LNO) and Makin Island’s Command Master Chief Lucas Jenkins. The dinner served as an opportunity to educate the LNOs of the role of a chief petty officer in the Navy and the importance of their ability to mentor both enlisted members and junior officers.
“Having these interactions with our ROK counterparts builds an understanding of our different roles that contributes to camaraderie and our long standing relationship for generations to come,” said Jenkins.
The operations concluded with a closing ceremony, April 3, in Busan, South Korea in recognition of the successful evolutions of the exercise.
U.S. commitment to the ROK remains ironclad, demonstrated by large-scale exercises such as SY23 that contribute to regional security and promote stability in northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.
The Makin Island ARG is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations with the embarked 13th MEU to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serve as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.