By U.S. Navy Lt.j.g. Benjamin T. Anderson
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM — More than 25 U.S. joint forces completed their participation in Valiant Shield 2012 (VS12) Sept. 19, ending the 9-day long exercise in the region around Guam.
“Valiant Shield 2012 was a very successful exercise, and reaffirmed our ability to conduct joint air and sea operations in support of potential future contingencies,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Jay R. Mills, VS12 director of operations.
VS12 was a U.S.-only exercise, and was the fourth iteration of the Valiant Shield series, which has been held biennially in the Asia-Pacific region since 2006.
“Joint exercises such as Valiant Shield provide opportunities for integrated joint operations in a blue-water environment,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. J.R. Haley, commander, Task Force (CTF) 70. “Training opportunities as a joint force where we detect, locate, track and engage units across air, sea, land and cyberspace allow us to train as we fight, making us better prepared as a maritime force.”
From the beginning of the exercise, joint interoperability was the key component by which success was dictated and measured. “During the exercise planning process, the services participating adapted to a variety of changing situations, and overcame difficulties as a result of force structure and changing operational needs,” said U.S. Navy Cdr. Dan Espiritu, VS12 executive agent, Pacific Command (PACOM). “This flexibility and innovation resulted in a successful planning and execution of Valiant Shield 2012.”
The U.S. Navy’s force structure during VS12 was similar to that seen in Valiant Shield 2010, according to Espiritu. “Although the overall number of aircraft was slightly less, it included cutting-edge air platforms such as the P-8A Poseidon and the EA-18G Growler this year.” The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and numerous U.S. Navy, Marine and Air Force units participated in the exercise, honing their ability to operate together.
The training opportunities for these forces spanned a variety of scenarios seen in real-world operations, including combat exercises, search-and-rescue, and humanitarian aid exercises.
Additionally, a sinking exercise (SINKEX) was accomplished during VS12. Joint live fire sank the ex-USS Coronado (AGF-11) in waters 18,270 feet deep, 102 nautical miles South of Guam at about 3:20 pm local time on Sept. 12. Sinking exercises benefit the Navy by providing crews the opportunity to gain proficiency in tactics, targeting and live firing against surface targets, which enhances combat readiness of forward-deploy units.
Other basic and advanced tactical and operational skills practiced by the Navy included air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare. The maritime forces further integrated with joint forces ashore on Guam, in particular the Air Force, by practicing combined air missions throughout the exercise.
During the air operations, Navy and Air Force pilots logged a combined estimated total of over 1500 flight hours. Exercises included simulated defensive counter-air missions, strike missions, suppressions of enemy air defenses, maritime interdiction, air-to-air refueling, and command and control operations. “Our flyers are very good at what they do,” said Air Force Col. Jack Stokes, VS12 chief of Air Force operations. “When we come together as a multi-service force, it gives us a chance to hone our skills. That builds a confidence in each other and allows us to work more effectively as one force.”
The large variety of joint training scenarios played out during the exercise enabled the U.S. forces participating to enhance overall joint operations proficiency, improving the ability to respond to a wide-spectrum of contingencies, and to further insure the safety of the region.
“The U.S. seeks to reassure the [Asia-Pacific] region that the U.S. military is an engaged and trusted partner, committed to preserving security and maintaining regional stability,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Greg Fenton, USS George Washington’s commanding officer. “Valiant Shield is a clear illustration that U.S. forces are prepared to rapidly respond to any crisis across the spectrum of operations from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to armed conflict.”
The following units participated in this year’s Valiant Shield:
• USS George Washington (CVN 73) with Carrier Air Wing 5
• USS Cowpens (CG 63)
• USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
• USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62)
• USS McCampbell (DDG 85)
• USS Chafee (DDG-90)
• USS Mustin (DDG-89)
• USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93)
• USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6)
• USNS John Ericcson (T-AO-194)
• Patrol Squadrons (VP) 5, 8, 40 and 69
• Air and test Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1
• Special Project Patrol Squadron (VPU) 2
• Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1
• Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132
U.S. Air Force
• 613 Air Operations Center (AOC) Det.
• 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS)
• 18th Aggressor Squadron (AS)
• 506th and 909th Air Refueling Squadrons (ARS)
• 551st Airborne Air Control Squadron (AACS)
• 12th Reconnaissance Squadron (RS)
• 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (SAS)
• 25th Space Range Squadron (SRS)
• 69th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS)
U.S. Marine Corps
• Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA(AW)) 225
• Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron (VMGR) 152
• Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 4