USS Lake Erie completes its role in Koa Kai

(Via Ho’okele News)

The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG70) completed its part in exercise Koa Kai 14-1 on Jan. 29 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Koa Kai 14-1 is an integrated maritime training exercise to certify independent deployers in multiple warfare areas and provide integrated training in a multi-ship environment. Lake Erie conducted flight operations, visit board search and seizure drills, maneuvers with other ships in the area, and a replenishment at sea with the Royal Canadian navy auxiliary oil replenishment ship HMCS Protecteur.

An SH-60B Seahawk participates in a recovery assistance exercise aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97). U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Johans Chavarro

“It’s a capstone of the basic level of training that makes certain we can operate in complex and operational scenarios,” Capt. John S. Banigan, commanding officer of Lake Erie said.

This exercise gave the crew of Lake Erie a chance to spend time developing their ability to work as a war-fighting unit.

“The benefit I see on the deckplates is that the crew gets to cross train and work together to become a more cohesive unit,” said Command Master Chief Jack Johnson.

Lake Erie’s executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Raphael Castillejo agreed.

“It gave us an opportunity to give experience to watch-standers and provide last minute adjustment in the ways we fight the ship,” Castillejo said.

This year Koa Kai 14-1 had five guided-missile cruisers from Hawaii and San Diego along with four guided-missile destroyers which provided joint training throughout the fleet.

“Any operation that works with other ships in fleet not only benefits us (Lake Erie), but it benefits the synergy of all the other ships on the waterfront as well,” Castillejo said.

The Lake Erie conducted flight operations with the 2nd Squadron 6th Cavalry Regiment of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.

An Army UH-60 Blackhawk from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (25th CAB) conducts deck qualifications aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) off the coast of Hawaii during exercise Koa Kai 14-1. U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Nardel Gervacio

“The big challenge was working with the Kiowa Warriors and we learned a lot about joint flight operations,” Castillejo said. ” Now we can write tactical memos for the fleet so they can use Army helos anywhere in the world.”

This was the first Koa Kai that featured a strike group as the composite warfare commander.

“This, unlike other Koa Kais, was a more holistic approach, in [that] a strike group-led the exercise,” Banigan said.

Along with the Army, Koa Kai was supported by Submarine Forces U.S. Pacific Fleet, Helicopter Strike Squadron 37, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, Marine Aircraft Group 24, Hawaii Air National Guard, and HMCS Protecteur.

“(Koa Kai) had great support from all services from the air to sea,” Banigan said.

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