ABOARD THE USS TARAWA (LHA-1) -- Marines and sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Expeditionary Strike Group-1 untied the USS Tarawa April 14 and took her to sea for the unit’s ESGEX, the first of three scheduled at-sea periods.The exercise is part of pre-deployment work-up training in preparation for an upcoming Western Pacific deployment (WESTPAC 05-1).Tactical vehicles and equipment were guided through the belly of the ship, as embarkation efforts for the exercise took place under the watchful eyes of members of the 13th MEU command element, along with MEU Service Support Group-13 (MSSG) and the ESG. The scene on Pier 6 at 32nd Street Naval Station bustled until the warriors of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the ground combat element of the MEU, arrived and added the appearance of angry bees swarming the innocent ship.On the morning of April 14th, the "Underway" whistle blew over the ship’s intercom, as San Diego Port Authority tugboats lashed up to the mighty Tarawa, and chugged her out of port.Once the boats were cut loose, “The Fleet’s Finest” was free to roll under the massive span of the Coronado Bridge. Sailors and Marines navigated their way through the maze of ladder wells and hatches onto the flight deck to take in one final view of the city before heading out to sea.Later in the day, and throughout the evening, the “Evil Eyes” of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163) gracefully landed on the flight deck of the Tarawa, signaling the arrival of the MEU’s air combat element (ACE). Squadron attachments, in the form of four AV-8B Harrier fighter jets courtesy of VFA-221, joined the ACE shortly after. The Command Element, ACE, MSSG-13 and BLT 2/1 combined form a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The MAGTF is a powerful, ship-to-shore force unique to the Marine Corps. Its' full combat employment is incomplete without the support of our Naval amphibious bretheren. With the unit underway, Marines and sailors are building the camaraderie and teamwork integral to efficiency and combat strength for the Global War on Terrorism.For more information about the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and pre-deployment work-ups, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.