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USS Rushmore Concludes U.S.-Japan Exercise Iron Fist

By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III, Expeditionary Strike Group 3

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The dock landing ship USS Rushmore, with elements from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, concluded exercise Iron Fist 2018 yesterday off the Southern California coast.

U.S. Marines and Japanese forces board an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft on the USS Rushmore flight deck.
U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops board an MV-22 Osprey on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Rushmore as part of the annual exercise Iron Fist 2018 off the Southern California coast, Feb. 5, 2018. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III
U.S. Marines and Japanese forces board an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft on the USS Rushmore flight deck. Iron Fist 2018
U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops board an MV-22 Osprey on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Rushmore as part of the annual exercise Iron Fist 2018 off the Southern California coast, Feb. 5, 2018. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III

Iron Fist 2018 demonstrated more than a decade of interoperability development and enhanced amphibious capability of Japanese and American forces. The Rushmore provided both an amphibious and air platform for Marine Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members to train and conduct operations.

The amphibious phase of Iron Fist 2018 showed that the Rushmore was able to act as a single focal point for surface, air and amphibious operations, while nearly 300 U.S. Marines and Japanese personnel joined more than 330 sailors aboard, officials said.

During the five-day exercise, the Rushmore launched six amphibious assault vehicles numerous times from its well deck and conducted more than 20 flight deck landings.

Integration, Readiness

"Iron Fist is an excellent opportunity to not only show the [Japan Ground Self-Defense Force] the importance of integrating landing forces with amphibious warfare, but also to continue sharpening our ship's own routine training to maintain the highest level of operational readiness," said Navy Cmdr. John Ryan, the Rushmore’s commander. “It provided the crew with a unique opportunity to work with other nations' armed forces, a crucial skill as the ship prepares for deployment.”

The culminating training event was a scenario-based amphibious assault launched from Rushmore in coordination with an inland helicopter assault. The exercise wrapped up with the components of 11th MEU and Japan Maritime and Ground Self-Defense Forces departing the ship and returning to Camp Pendleton, California.

Joint interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. 3rd Fleet's ability to respond quickly and effectively to crises in the Pacific. The Japanese-U.S. alliance helps with counterterrorism, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, capacity building, ballistic missile defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
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