SASEBO, Japan –
Expeditionary Strike Group 7 (ESG-7) completed their annual Fleet Synthetic Training – Joint Exercise (FST-J) 15-72 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) April 20-24.
FST-J brings together the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines into a computer-based synthetic training environment designed to simulate complex, real-world scenarios and threats. This also allows units that are geographically separated to integrate in a tactically and operationally demanding virtual environment.
This joint-training exercise for the ESG brought together operators from USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), Destroyer Squadron 7 (COMDESRON 7) and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3D MEB) aboard Bonhomme Richard. This is also the first FST-J in 7th Fleet that has involved the 3D MEB as a participant which allowed the ESG-MEB team to exercise their linkages in a complex maritime environment.
“The synthetic nature of FST-J enabled us to train at the high end of the warfighting spectrum," said Capt. Brian Finman, ESG-7 deputy chief of staff. “By bringing together DESRON 7 as a sea combat commander and John S McCain as an air warfare commander, it enabled our staff to operate as a composite warfare commander and rapidly integrate warfare commanders into a functional warfighting team.”
Another valuable aspect of this exercise is that it brought together all of the task forces in 7th Fleet in a scenario that required coordinated support to enable the amphibious operations without going to sea. This cross-task force integration is difficult to implement in a real-world exercise because it would require so much complexity and force structure to execute.
“Too often, we practice amphibious warfare on the assumption that the transit to the amphibious objective will be a benign environment," said Finman. “FST-J is designed to enable the ESG to fight its way to the objective with the support of other task forces and then create the conditions for executing the amphibious landing.
Leading the exercise was Tactical Training Group Pacific (TTGP) whose mission is to provide advanced tactical training to improve proficiency in warfighting and joint operations to the ESG. Computer-generated environmental conditions, political unrest and foreign military provocations tested the warfare commanders and operators’ decision making process and pre-planned responses to these complex situations.
"FST-J 15-72 is an annual synthetic exercise that provides a challenging scenario that provides training for the unique nature and capabilities of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 as a forward deployed force leading a Strike Force level training event" said Capt. John Nolan, TTGP commanding officer. "It was a highly valuable training experience, particularly with the opportunity to train with U.S. joint forces and the Royal Australian Navy while working from our staff spaces onboard our flagship, USS Bonhomme Richard.”
Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 led by Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, Commander Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, is the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa.