Photo Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriel S. Weber
USS ESSEX, Gulf of Thailand (February 6, 2009) - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) receive fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), with the USS Stethem (DDG 63) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) close behind, during a refueling-at-sea in preparation for Cobra Gold 2009. Cobra Gold is an annual Kingdom of Thailand and U.S. co-sponsored military exercise designed to train U.S. and partner Asian-pacific forces. The exercise will include humanitarian projects with participants from Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. The U.S. will also engage with Thai military forces in a field training exercise to promote familiarity with and cohesion between these partner nations' military forces. CG 09 provides a multinational environment to strengthen the bonds between the Thai community and partner militaries. Essex, commanded by Capt. Brent Canady, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary
Strike Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.