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Flight deck crew personnel use hand signals to communicate with air crews and other flight deck personnel to ensure safety during flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Flight deck crew personnel use hand signals to communicate with air crews and other flight deck personnel to ensure safety during flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Flight deck crew personnel use hand signals to communicate with air crews and other flight deck personnel to ensure safety during flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Flight deck crew personnel use hand signals to communicate with air crews and other flight deck personnel to ensure safety during flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines file into an MV-22B Osprey onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines file into an MV-22B Osprey onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
MV-22B Osprey crew prepare to take off from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2016.
MV-22B Osprey crew prepare to take off from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Refuelers on the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's AV-8BII Harriers launched from the ship to conduct sorties against the Islamic State group.
Refuelers on the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's AV-8BII Harriers launched from the ship to conduct sorties against the Islamic State group. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Lance Cpl. Blake Tarver, a plane captain for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, observes an AV-8BII Harrier prior to conducting the first aircraft sorties launched from the ship against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Lance Cpl. Blake Tarver, a plane captain for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, observes an AV-8BII Harrier prior to conducting the first aircraft sorties launched from the ship against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A member of the flight deck crew on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer holds up a board to communicate with the 13th Marine Expeditionary AV-8B Harrier pilots preparing to launch in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
A member of the flight deck crew on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer holds up a board to communicate with the 13th Marine Expeditionary AV-8B Harrier pilots preparing to launch in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Lagrimas fuels a 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier prior to the plane's launch from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The Harriers conducted the first airstrike sorties from the ship against the Islamic State.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Lagrimas fuels a 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier prior to the plane's launch from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The Harriers conducted the first airstrike sorties from the ship against the Islamic State. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier pilot prepares for the first airstrike sorties launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer against the Islamic State group on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
A 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier pilot prepares for the first airstrike sorties launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer against the Islamic State group on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier pilot prepares for the first airstrikes launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer against the Islamic State group on Thursday, June 16, 2016.  The sorties from the Boxer mark the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve the U.S. Navy has conducted airstrikes from the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean at the same time.
A 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier pilot prepares for the first airstrikes launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer against the Islamic State group on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The sorties from the Boxer mark the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve the U.S. Navy has conducted airstrikes from the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean at the same time. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016, targeting Islamic State group militants.
A Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016, targeting Islamic State group militants. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. It was among the first sorties conducted from the ship against the Islamic State group.
A Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. It was among the first sorties conducted from the ship against the Islamic State group. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
A sailor watches flight operations from ''vultures row'' on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016.  Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harriers conducted the first airstrike sorties from the ship against the Islamic State group.
A sailor watches flight operations from ''vultures row'' on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harriers conducted the first airstrike sorties from the ship against the Islamic State group. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Lance Cpl. Blake Tarver, a plane captain for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, prepares an AV-8BII Harrier prior to conducting the first aircraft sorties launched from the ship against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Lance Cpl. Blake Tarver, a plane captain for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, prepares an AV-8BII Harrier prior to conducting the first aircraft sorties launched from the ship against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Lagrimas fuels a 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier prior to the plane's launch from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Lagrimas fuels a 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit AV-8BII Harrier prior to the plane's launch from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Chris Church/Stars and Stripes)

ABOARD THE USS BOXER—The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit began airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Thursday from the amphibious assault ship, USS Boxer, highlighting the flexibility of U.S. Naval operations around the world.

The air campaign marks the first time the U.S. Navy has used ship-based aircraft from both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf at the same time during Operation Inherent Resolve.

Coordinating these missions shows that the Navy has the ability to strike at any time and place of its choosing, Amphibious Squadron One Commodore Capt. Keith Moore said.

The 13th MEU’s AV-8BII Harriers left the flight deck of the Boxer carrying the maximum payload of ordnance for sorties against the Islamic State group over Iraq.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Harry S. Truman began launching airstrikes against the Islamic State from the Eastern Mediterranean. It was the first time the Navy had targeted the Islamic State from there.

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer, Col. Anthony M. Henderson, said the operations from the Truman and the Boxer would be effective “countering ISIL’s operations and supporting the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government as they are trying to reclaim and push back ISIL from the areas of operation you are familiar with, in Fallujah, Mosul, and other places.” He used an acronym for the Islamic State group.

While amphibious assault ships, like the Boxer, cannot conduct as many airstrike sorties as an aircraft carrier — the 13th MEU deployed with six Harriers — it brings other unique capabilities to the theater.

An amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit can support a variety of contingencies within a theater of operations, Henderson said, including airstrikes, embassy reinforcement, humanitarian assistance and maritime security operations among other capabilities.

The Boxer’s amphibious ready group and the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit comprise 4,500 sailors and Marines on three ships — the Boxer, the USS New Orleans and USS Harpers Ferry. Currently each of the three ships is in a different part of the 5th Fleet area of operations, which covers some 2.5 million square miles, including the conflict-prone Persian Gulf.

church.chris@stripes.com Twitter: @CChurchStripes

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