Hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, visiting defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toured USS Anchorage (LPD 23) April 2 as part of an historic gathering in Hawaii.
As the first-ever meeting of its kind to take place in the United States, the ongoing three-day ASEAN-U.S. forum provides an opportunity for defense leaders to discuss improving humanitarian disaster relief capability, enhance regional security architecture, and identify ways to strengthen multilateral partnerships between military and civilian agencies.
Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, led the defense leaders aboard the San Diego-based amphibious transport dock ship, which is conducting a port visit in Pearl Harbor during an ongoing at-sea training period.
“Hawaii is the gateway to our Pacific rebalance, so it was a great opportunity to host the ASEAN ministers here at Pearl Harbor,” said Girrier. “Touring USS Anchorage allowed us to highlight the Navy-Marine Corps team’s ship-to-shore multi-mission capabilities, as we work with ASEAN to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
Accompanied by Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander U.S. Pacific Command, the ASEAN ministers toured Anchorage’s advanced medical facilities, discussed maritime domain awareness and security cooperation, and observed MV-22 Osprey operations from the flight deck.
“Multilateral engagements such as today’s tour are increasingly important to build regional trust and cooperation, which helps deter conflict and crisis,” said Girrier, explaining the significance of working with ASEAN. “This approach was on display during last June’s ASEAN disaster relief and military medicine exercise that brought together regional navies from 18 nations, including the U.S.
“U.S. Pacific Fleet’s participation in, and support for, ASEAN defense exercises reflects America’s serious commitment to the Pacific rebalance, as we all work together to promote regional security, stability, prosperity and peace.”
Commissioned May 2013, Anchorage is the seventh amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. The ship supports Marine Corps ship-to-shore mobility, to include landing craft air cushion vehicle, amphibious assault vehicle and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Anchorage provides improved warfighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features.
Cmdr. Joel Stewart, Anchorage’s commanding officer, was eager to highlight his crew, their ship, and the embarked Marines of the 1st Marine Logistics Group.
“It was an honor to have ASEAN and U.S. leaders on board and to showcase our outstanding Navy-Marine team and this new ship with the capabilities it brings as part of the strategic rebalance to the Pacific,” Stewart said.
As part of the rebalance, expanded engagement with ASEAN has been a priority for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Consisting of the 10 members of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, ASEAN has a partnership with the U.S. that is grounded in cooperation across political, economic, security and cultural spheres. Strengthening the multilateral architecture of security bolsters the international rules and norms governing all nations’ actions, enhancing stability and prosperity in the Pacific.
Press Release, April 3, 2014; Image: US Navy