USS Essex (LHD-2) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship built at what is now the Northrop Grumman Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on 17 October 1992 while moored at North Island NAS beside the Kitty Hawk (CV-63). It is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts. Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense in the first Bush Administration, spoke at the commissioning ceremony. Essex is currently serving as the command ship for Expeditionary Strike Group Seven led by the Commander, Task Force 76.
Essex conducted an arduous and highly successful training program during the spring of 1993, and from 18 August until 23 November, was undergoing upgrades, during Post Shakedown Availability, in Long Beach harbor, while her crew was at 4 section duty. Her maiden deployment was in October 1994. With the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked, Essex showcased her abilities on numerous occasions. The highlight of the deployment came in January 1995, when she left the Persian Gulf to prepare for the complex task of covering the withdrawal of United Nations multinational force from Somalia in Operation United Shield. Under fire from advancing Somalis, every member of the force was successfully extracted. Essex returned to San Diego on 25 April 1995.