USS Boxer (LHD 4) and ships assigned to Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) steam alongside while transiting to U.S. 5th Fleet's area of responsibility. 5th Fleet, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, is responsible for a sea encompassing about 2.5 million square miles of water including the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. U.S. Navy photo
by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Paul Polach
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW) Joshua Valcarcel, USS Boxer Public Affairs
The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) left the Persian Gulf on April 19, entering U.S. 7th Fleet
’s area of operation (AOR) to begin its journey back to its homeport in San Diego, after conducting more than five months of maritime security operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf.
“We spent a very long time in the Gulf, and the crew responded magnificently,” said Capt. Bruce W. Nichols, USS Boxer’s (LHD 4) commanding officer
. “Even though it was a challenging cruise, everyone found ways to stay motivated.”
Upon arriving in the Gulf in mid-November, the strike group offloaded the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC) to support operations in Iraq, as well as provide security and safety for Iraq’s economically vital oil platforms and protect international waters for commercial shipping and transit.
“All parts of the strike group contributed immensely to the region’s efforts on the global war on terrorism and the stabilization and rebuilding of Iraq,” said Capt. Peter Dallman, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5/BOXESG.
“While the 15th MEU conducted counter-insurgency operations and built self-sufficient Iraqi police forces, strike group ships conducted maritime security operations and worked towards building foreign relations in the region.”
While the Marines conducted operations in Iraq, BOXESG ships assisted them with supplies, intelligence and communications.
“I think everyone performed excellently,” said 15th MEU’s (SOC) Lance Cpl. Anthony N. Neal. “It was hard, but we did our job and did it well. They wouldn’t have asked us to extend if we didn’t.”
While transiting the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR, BOXESG will have its damage control training capabilities assessed by Afloat Training Group Pacific during a three-day Unit Level Training Assessment-Sustainment (ULTRA-S) inspection.
ULTRA-S will test the crew’s knowledge and application of the ship’s pre-planned response to emergencies such as fires or flooding, audit administrative records, as well as watch, weapons and instructor qualifications.
“Ultra–S is an ongoing process that assesses whether or not Boxer is qualified to carry out its mission,” continued Nichols. “This will be the last hurdle before heading home.”
BOXESG will then enter U.S. 3rd Fleet’s area of operations and make a final port visit
in Pearl Harbor before heading home to San Diego, ending their nine-month Western Pacific deployment.
Boxer is the flagship for the BOXESG, reporting operationally to Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious task force.