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4,500 Sailors, Marines Depart For Training Exercise Near Hawaii

The ships, sailors and Marines of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed San Diego Monday on a deployment that's expected to last around seven months.

The group is composed of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore and the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage, which is embarking upon its maiden deployment.

"The Essex ARG/MEU has conducted a robust training cycle and has become a stronger Navy-Marine Corps team, successfully completing every evolution and certifying with flying colors," said Capt. Clint Carroll, commander of Amphibious Squadron Three.

"The sailors and Marines exemplify the hard work, dedication and unit cohesion necessary for a successful deployment," he said. "I am confident we are prepared to face any challenge and meet all missions."

The 4,500 sailors and Marines will take part in a U.S. Pacific Fleet training exercise near Hawaii, and then head off for regular operations, according to the Navy.

The Essex, named after a county in Massachusetts, is deploying for the first time since it was transferred three years ago to San Diego from its former base in Japan.

En route to San Diego, the 844-foot-long ship collided with the oiler USNS Yukon during a refueling operation about 120 miles off the Southern California coast — a non-injury incident that cost the Essex's commanding officer his job.

The Essex, which suffered minor damage, subsequently underwent an already scheduled major overhaul at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard.

The Rushmore returned to San Diego from its most recent deployment two years ago this week, when it was part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group.

While this is the first long deployment for the Anchorage, the vessel and its crew made headlines in December when it picked up the Orion space capsule, which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean following a test flight. The Orion is being developed for a possible manned flight to Mars.

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