The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and components of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Haifa, Israel, March 14, to conduct a port visit after participating in the previously scheduled exercise Juniper Cobra 2018 (JC18).

This is the first port visit in more than a month since the ship and nearly 2,500 embarked Sailors and Marines departed Naval Station Mayport, Florida, Feb. 7 as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

From March 6-13, approximately 600 Sailors and Marines from Iwo Jima and the 26th MEU teamed with Israeli Defense Force (IDF) personnel to participate in JC18, which is designed to improve the cooperative defense of Israel between the U.S. and IDF.

While the biannual exercise focuses on countering ballistic missile threats to Israel, JC18 also provided an opportunity for 26th MEU Marines to train with and learn from their IDF counterparts. The planning for the JC18 exercise began in late 2016. The port visit is not related to any real-world events.

“JC18 allowed the 26th MEU to sharpen our warfighting skills and improve our readiness to meet the myriad threats and uncertain crises that could arise in the 6th Fleet area of operations,” said U.S. Marine Col. Farrell J. Sullivan, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “The training venues in Israel were superb and the bilateral exchange of combat tactics and procedures with our IDF counterparts make us both increasingly more relevant on the modern-day battlefield.”

26th MEU Marines and IDF soldiers from the 35th Airborne Brigade trained side-by-side to share and learn tactics, techniques and procedures for urban environment operations, combat casualty care, and live-fire training.

“At the tactical level, the Marines and Sailors of the MEU now stand more ready to tackle unforeseen challenges,” Sullivan said. “The readiness we have built during this exercise allows us to better epitomize our unit motto of being a certain force in an uncertain world.”

At sea, the command ship of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) showcased its amphibious capabilities by conducting two days of ship-to-shore operations. Iwo Jima’s well deck launched and recovered its three landing craft several times, delivering approximately 500 Marines and 610 tons of equipment and supplies to Palmachim Beach in the training scenario.

Iwo Jima also participated in mil-to-mil training, embarking five IDF members throughout the exercise who helped guide the ship’s aircraft through the skies over and around Israel.

Additionally, the ship hosted two at-sea tours for IDF visitors, allowing the crew to share experiences with their guests while giving them a better understanding of how the 844-foot amphibious assault ship operates.

“Having IDF members aboard Iwo Jima to work with and meet our Sailors and Marines is what JC18 is all about,” said Capt. Jack Killman, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4. “Cooperation between our two countries at every level is important to stability in the Middle East.”

Resembling a small aircraft carrier with the addition of a well deck, modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the amphibious ready group (ARG)/expeditionary strike group (ESG).

These ships transport and land elements of the Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) or Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB) with a combination of aircraft and landing craft.

The Wasp-class LHDs are currently the largest amphibious ships in the world, and provide the Marine Corps with a means of ship-to-shore movement by helicopter in addition to movement by landing craft.

The Iwo Jima ARG is deployed to U.S. 6th Fleet in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

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 dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, PHIBRON 4.

The 26th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,500 Marines and Sailors, and includes a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element.