HMS Ark Royal at sea --
More than 150 Marines and Sailors of Marine Aircraft Group 14, aboard the HMS Ark Royal, concluded a two-week training evolution dubbed Capella Strike, with allies from the United Kingdom.
While at sea one last night, Marines and Royal Navy Sailors traded unit patches and various other items to commemorate their time served together during Capella Strike.
Capt. Christopher E. Brandt, the administration officer with Marine Attack Squadron 223, said the exercise was an opportunity for both nations to display their capabilities and find ways to integrate them in a high operational tempo, allowing the Marines and RN Sailors to take advantage of this rare opportunity.
Pilots conducted carrier qualifications along with a variation of training sorties while Marines on the flight deck assured all preparations were made with for the 12 AV-8B Harriers aboard.
After Marines embarked HMS Ark Royal and the ship set sail, MAG-14 flew aircraft to the ship at sea.
“Harriers worked with British Sea King helicopters during surface exercises, locating and targeting potential threats,” explained Brandt. “They also conducted close air support training missions on land, displaying their ship to shore capability.”
An officer who worked closely with the Royal Navy, Capt. Nicholas R. Wineman, a pilot with VMA-223 said, “Exercise Capella Strike was an exciting opportunity to integrate American air power with British sea power. The HMS Ark Royal was created with the sole intention of launching Harriers into harms way.”
Wineman flew several sorties with the British Sea King helicopters and further remarked, “It is a pleasure to integrate with our British friends with the hope of continuing combined exercises such as these well into the future.”
Lt. Ralph Wood, a British exchange pilot in VMA-542, made his first ever carrier landing on a British ship while flying an American aircraft. Wood remarked, “What a great experience to get my first carrier landing in an American jet on the HMS-Ark Royal, especially with its historical significance to the Royal Navy.”
Two desolate, water bound weeks at sea conducting Capella Strike presented a unique and memorable training opportunity for all involved, but the view of a sandy Florida beachfront was a sight for sore eyes for Marines and RN Sailors on looking from the HMS Ark Royal.
“Some Marines were able to get first time boat experience,” said Cpl. Timothy S. Bordner, an avionics electrician with VMA-542. “Two weeks was kind of short, but you’re always happy to get back to land.”