Newly-commissioned USS Lewis B. Puller starts first drill in Djibouti

US Navy photo of USS Lewis B. Puller

Ships of the amphibious ready group assembled around USS America arrived in Djibouti on September 4 to join the re-commissioned USS Lewis B. Puller for two weeks of amphibious exercises.

Exercise Alligator Dagger, taking place in international waters off the coast of Djibouti, Africa, is the largest regional amphibious exercise to integrate and synchronize the warfighting capabilities of Naval Amphibious Forces, Task Force 51, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (TF 51/5) and those of adjacent U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and special operations forces units.

“USS America’s Amphibious Ready Group and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are prepared to rehearse a variety of tactical capabilities in this demanding and globally vital region,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Frank Donovan, commander of TF 51/5. “This critical amphibious combat proficiency training will ensure our integrated Navy and Marine Corps forces are postured and prepared to execute operations at sea, from the sea and ashore.”

According to Donovan, this is the first time that ships, sailors and marines of Amphibious Squadron 3 and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will rehearse power projection capabilities in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

Other firsts include the use of a Landing Base/Platform and a Mine Hunting Unit with an Unmanned Surface Vehicle, both force multipliers that greatly increase TF 51/5’s ability to gain access to potentially denied coastal areas.

The America-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the command ship for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), USS San Diego (LPD 22), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) will participate in the third iteration of this exercise.

“USS Puller allows U.S. Naval Forces greater operational flexibility while providing critical support to TF 51/5’s joint forces to meet potential threats in the 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Navy Capt. Adan G. Cruz, commanding officer of USS Puller. “The newly-commissioned Expeditionary Mobile Base platform will support Task Force 51/5’s diverse missions that include airborne mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions as well as crisis response operations.”

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