Split 15th MEU Deployment Continues as USS Somerset Joins Indian Amphibious Exercise

March 26, 2024 2:06 PM
Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Garrett Legan, assigned to Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares for fast-rope training aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25) during Exercise Tiger TRIUMPH in Visakhapatnam, India, March 20, 2024. US Marine Corps Photo

Elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) embarked on amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25) are now conducting an exercise in India, while back in the U.S., the MEU’s MV-22B Ospreys are beginning reintegration training, according to Friday releases by the MEU.

The 15th MEU completed its participation in Exercise Cobra Gold 24 in Thailand on Mar. 8 and now are in India carrying out the third iteration of Exercise Tiger TRIUMPH (Tri-Services India-U.S. Amphibious Exercise). Tiger Triumph is a combined, joint exercise between U.S. and Indian armed forces focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief readiness and enhancing interoperability, according to a 15th MEU release. The exercise 24 is being held from Mar. 18-31, in the port of Visakhapatnam and the waters near Visakhapatnam and Kakinada.

The exercise is scheduled to include a harbor phase, followed by a sea phase, in which U.S. and Indian forces will practice combined operational maneuver, command and control, and joint sustainment operations, according to the release.

“Our Marines and sailors are excited to be here for the third iteration of Tiger TRIUMPH and train alongside the Indian Armed Forces,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lindsay Mathwick, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU, and commander of troops aboard Somerset in the release. “We are looking forward to enhancing our combined and joint capability with our Indian partners across the range of military operations and continue to strengthen our shared vision of a secure Indo-Pacific”.

India has not released the specific details of its participating forces, stating in a release only that Indian Navy ships with integral helicopters and landing crafts embarked, Indian Navy aircraft, Indian Army personnel and vehicles and Indian Air Force aircraft and helicopters along with the Rapid Action Medical Team (RAMT) would be taking part in the exercise. However, the amphibious transport dock INS Jalashwa (L41) (ex-USS Trenton, LPD-14) is participating in the exercise as the formal opening ceremony was held aboard it.

Somerset and the embarked elements of the 15th MEU are part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 15th MEU team. The Boxer ARG is operating in a disaggregated construct during parts of its deployment. Somerset and embarked elements of the 15th MEU are under the command and control of Combined Task Force 76/3, which is employed by U.S. 7th Fleet to operate with allies and partners. The rest of the Boxer ARG, consisting of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) are operating off the U.S. West Coast, according to USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker, in preparation for a spring deployment to the Indo-Pacific. The spring deployment will also be the first operational deployment for the amphibious combat vehicle, reported USNI News.

An Army UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, leave the landing area of the USS Somerset (LPD-25) while underway in the Gulf of Thailand, Feb. 29, 2024. US Army Photo

The 15th MEU is also reintegrating its MV-22B Ospreys following the lifting earlier this month of a grounding order. A Friday release stated that reintegration training for the Ospreys began on Thursday at Camp Pendleton, California, and involved transporting a platoon of Marines across the camp.

The training was conducted at two sites, according to the release, and involved a section of MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced) – part of the aviation combat element of the 15th MEU – and Marines with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/5. Bravo Company is BLT 1/5 is airborne assault company for the 15th MEU.

“This type of reintegration training is an important step in returning our pilots and enlisted aircrew to full proficiency and readiness to support the 15th MEU,” said Lt. Col. Drew Bossart, the commanding officer of VMM-165 (Rein.) in the release. “We continue to follow the Marine Corps’ deliberate, three-phased approach as our pilots regain basic flight currency, rebuild our instructor cadre, and achieve proficiencies. I am fully confident in our aircraft and that our pilots and aircrews will soon achieve a high state of operational readiness.”

The training involved pilots landing Ospreys at Camp Pendleton’s helicopter outlying landing field (HOLF) at San Mateo, which has a section that matches the flight deck dimensions of an amphibious assault ship, allowing pilots to simulate landing on a ship. Bravo Company Marines conducted multiple boarding and disembarking drills at the HOLF just as they did previously during at-sea training on board Boxer.

Lt. Col. Lindsay Mathwick, right, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the commander of troops aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25), speaks to and enjoys local Indian hors d’oeuvres with Cmdr. Joseph Cozart, left, assistant chief of staff for logistics, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and Task Force 76/3, and Commodore Dalip Singh, commanding officer of Naval Air Station INS Dega, center, during the opening ceremony of Exercise Tiger TRIUMPH in Visakhapatnam, India, March 19, 2024. US Marine Corps

Following the landing zone drills in San Mateo, VMM-165 (Rein.) pilots transported Bravo Company Marines to a confined area landing site (CAL) in the Las Flores area, where Bravo Company Marines exited the aircraft and established security to simulate how they would insert and extract at a landing zone during a mission.

After completing the training at the CAL site, Bravo Company’s Marines were flown back to San Mateo for their final landing and the Ospreys returned to their squadron headquarters at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

“MV-22s are the cornerstone of the 15th MEU’s Marine Air-Ground Task Force, providing us unrivaled flexibility for expeditionary operations across the spectrum of military operations and movement from ship to shore,” said Col. Sean Dynan, the commanding officer of the 15th MEU in the release “VMM-165’s pilots and aircrews have the full support of the 15th MEU as they take a measured approach to progress through all requirements carefully and deliberately.”

VMM-165 (Rein.) and the 15th MEU will continue to conduct progressive training events over the coming weeks, both ashore and at sea, concluded the release.


Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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