Task Force 76 … Operating Forward for Victory from the Sea

     What they say is true, “There’s nothing quite like the ‘Gator’ Navy!”

     That statement is never more apparent than at Task Force 76, headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.  Operating under many names – Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN, and Commander Task Force 76 (CTF76) – with the overall mission of being the primary provider for amphibious training and planning in the Seventh Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Landing Craft-Utility (LCU) 1646, attached to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 from Naval Activities Sasebo, Japan, embarked on dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), lands on the beach in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2013.  . (Photo by MC3 Christopher Lindahl)

Landing Craft-Utility (LCU) 1646, attached to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 from Naval Activities Sasebo, Japan, embarked on dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), lands on the beach in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2013. . (Photo by MC3 Christopher Lindahl)

     As part of this mission, we prepare forward deployed amphibious, salvage, mine-countermeasure and explosive ordnance disposal units for a wide spectrum of tasking ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to full combat operations.  While Task Force 76’s mission is immense, the ultimate objective is to help maintain peace and stability and protect our vital interests in the Pacific.  That mission and objective have been the foundation of Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet since it’s commissioning on January 10, 1943.  The force went on to participate in every assault landing in the Southwestern Pacific during World War II, took part in the occupation landings culminating with the successful completion of the war.  Since then, units assigned to Task Force 76 have been involved in every major conflict, conducted multi-lateral exercises supporting the cooperative engagement strategy, and provided humanitarian assistance to strengthen our bond with our coalition partners.

     Providing a “Swiss Army knife” of sorts, with regards to operational capabilities, CTF76 can provide a range of options from which the action can be tailored to any situation.  Whether it’s an amphibious assault with an entire Marine Expeditionary Force, a Marine Division, or a Marine Expeditionary Unit; responding to humanitarian assistance requests, recovering unexploded ordnance, or deploying a medical team to disaster areas, CTF76 units are on call 24/7.

     To ensure the task force is ready to answer that call, the logistics capabilities of the force are continuously practiced, refined and improved during the nearly 40 bi- and multi-lateral exercises they participate in annually.  From peacetime to wartime, the goal is to efficiently and effectively deliver logistics from over the horizon to over the shore.  To accomplish this mission requires a team effort between CTF76, CTF73, Military Sealift Command, the Marine Combat Logistics Group and other entities and logistics units from other countries.

     In peacetime, the N4 organization, made up of Logistics (N41) and Readiness (N43), are focused on ensuring all the ships and units assigned have the finances, material, personnel, and equipment to support all mission sets … providing mentorship, general guidance, material expediting assistance, and logistics coordination with other commands.  In wartime, the focus shifts from preparation to execution – applying the cooperative teamwork developed in peacetime to ensure interoperability and joint coordination across services, allies, and coalition partners to ensure mission accomplishment and success.

     The logistics team recently got some time to practice during exercises Talisman Saber and Ulchi Freedom Guardian.  During Talisman Saber, the logistics team of CTF76, operating as Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN, contributed to the strike group becoming the only qualified expeditionary strike group in the Navy by displaying and exercising the ability to manage the “beans, bullets, and barrels” consumed by U.S. and Australian naval units, and demonstrating the ability to plan, execute and coordinate the sustainment of ground units in combat operations.

     During Ulchi Freedom Guardian, CTF76’s logistics units and partners were teamed with logistics teams from the Republic of Korea’s Navy to plan and execute tasks and missions directed by the exercise’s Combined Force Commander, the Naval Component Commander, Commander of the Amphibious Task Force, and the Commander of the Landing Force.

     It is this daily interaction with U.S., our allies and coalition units that, I believe, makes the Gator Navy, specifically CTF76, unique.  The teamwork required moving parts, material, subsistence, mail, and fuel around the AOR in support of joint and multi-national efforts, and getting it from ship to shore is incredible, and the experience gained from that teamwork and coordination is priceless.

By Cmdr. John Duenas, SC, USN; Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, Expeditionary Strike Group 7