By Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), along with embarked units including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4 arrived off the coast of Israel March 6, to participate in exercise Juniper Cobra 2018.
While JC18 focuses on improving combined ballistic missile defense, it also allows U.S. and Israel to increase interoperability among its different military forces.
"Israel and the United States are strong allies, and I’m looking forward to seeing everything our Navy-Marine Corps team will accomplish with them to increase our capabilities and build our relationship,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, commanding officer of Iwo Jima, which serves as the flagship of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
“This is the first exercise of our deployment and everything we’ve done so far is to prepare for opportunities like this,” said O’Brien. “I know this will be an outstanding experience for both nations and an excellent chance for our teams work together and demonstrate our commitment to each other.”
Although Iwo Jima and the 26th MEU will not participate directly in the ballistic missile defense portion of the exercise, they will participate in other events, including bilateral training between the Israeli Defense Force and U.S. Marines.
“Our focus during Juniper Cobra 18 will be to hone our warfighting skills and ensure we are ready to react to any contingency we might face in U.S. 6th Fleet. In addition, the bilateral training opportunity builds upon a strong and enduring military-to-military relationship between the U.S. and Israel – a relationship built on trust developed over decades of cooperation,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Farrell J. Sullivan, the 26th MEU commanding officer. “The exercise provides an opportunity to demonstrate the readiness of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and 26th MEU, and showcases our truly unique capability to project and sustain combat forces ashore from a sea base.”
The Juniper Cobra series has been regularly conducted since 2001 with the last iteration, JC16, being held in 2016.
Iwo Jima, homeported in Mayport, Florida, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th MEU and includes Iwo Jima, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 8 and 4, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of PHIBRON 4.