U.S. Sailors and Marines expressed heartfelt good-byes to their Republic of Korea (ROK) counterparts who disembarked ships of the Sasebo, Japan-based Essex Amphibious Ready Group
(ESXARG) on April 1.
The ARG-wide off-load came at the conclusion of Foal Eagle '07, the annual joint/combined exercise meant to improve interoperability and combat readiness between U.S. and ROK forces and build on the long-standing alliance between the United States
and the Republic of Korea.
The exercise culminated in a combined amphibious landing March 29, which was a testament to the two forces' interoperability in the Foal Eagle Amphibious Task Force
(FE-ATF). The landing displayed the flexibility of the 7th Fleet's amphibious ships USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Juneau (LPD 10).
Beyond operational integration, the two forces were able to forge bonds from eating and working together aboard the ships of the ARG.
U.S. and ROK forces shared everything from gym space to flag plot space and ultimately shared parts of their lives with each, despite language barriers.
Poteat said he helped his new ROK shipmates figure out the vending machine and how to read important ship signs. In exchange, they taught him how to say hello and goodbye in Hangul, the Korean language; though Poteat admits he already forgot how to say the words.
“Past the military uniform, we are just people and it was nice to get to know them as people,” said Poteat.
ROK Marines of Regimental Landing Team (RLT) 2 embarked the ARG’s Essex, Tortuga and Juneau March 25. Embarking as well aboard Essex was the ROK Navy command and control element of the ROK’s amphibious ships, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 53, who worked directly with the ARG’s PHIBRON 11. ARG ships joined with USS Cowpens (CG 63) and four ROK landing ship tanks to form the Foal Eagle Amphibious Task Force.
The FE-ATF transited to an amphibious operating area and then conducted the final amphibious landing.
Activities -- both officially planned and spontaneous --surrounded the ROK shipboard experience. The ROK Marines and Sailors used shipboard work out facilities, ate Navy chow, played cards on the mess decks and shopped at the ship store.
Aboard Essex, the embarked ROK personnel had the pleasure of being the audience for the ship’s band “Take Notice,” who conducted a special performance for their guests; after the performance, ROK Sailors and Marines participated in karaoke on the mess decks. Similar Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities were hosted on Juneau and Tortuga.
ROK personnel said they enjoyed the experience aboard U.S. Navy ships and interacting with their U.S. counterparts.
“They are so nice, friendly and have good manners; we are very thankful [for their hospitality],” said ROK Marine Lance Cpl. Joo Song Lee. “In the end, we feel closer to U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy personnel.”
Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs