Kearsarge ARG Returns from Deployment
Sailors and Marines of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed an eight and a half-month deployment May 16 when the ships arrived at Norfolk Naval Station and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va.
The Sailors and Marines reunited with family and friends after 262 days away from home.
“Completing a diverse and challenging deployment and bringing the Sailors and Marines safely back home to their families accomplished one of my major goals,” said Capt. Peter Pagano, commodore, Kearsarge ARG. “The support of our families is the foundation that has made all our success of the past months possible, so it’s great to reunite with them now.”
Kearsarge ARG began its deployment August 27, 2010 approximately one month ahead of schedule, to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to flood-stricken regions in Pakistan.
The 26th MEU, embarked on the ARG ships, served as the theater reserve force while in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). The Kearsarge ARG/26th MEU team also engaged in seven theater security cooperation engagements with our regional allies in the 5th and 6th Fleet AORs.
Kearsarge and Ponce also provided initial support to Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn and Combined Joint Task Force Operation Unified Protector. Both operations were in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973, which included uses of all means necessary to protect civilians under threat of attack from Qadhafi regime forces, the establishment of a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.
“Every combat mission, every exercise and every port visit conducted by these Sailors and Marines made a lasting impact throughout the region,” said Pagano. “I’m extremely proud of their performance, professionalism and accomplishments.”
Following the end of Operation Odyssey Dawn, Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, visited Kearsarge to address the crew and recognize Sailors and Marines for their outstanding efforts supporting the operation.
“You have accomplished your task with extraordinary skill, dedication, and competence, and that has been evidenced in these initial six days of Odyssey Dawn,” said Ham.
The ships of Kearsarge ARG conducted approximately 1,500 air sorties, 90 underway replenishments consisting of connected replenishments and vertical replenishments, 150 well deck evolutions, and various training and operation evolutions.
“This crew of Sailors and Marines never ceased to amaze me,” said Kearsarge Commanding Officer, Capt. Baxter Goodly. “Their professionalism and dedication to the mission were evident in every evolution we completed. They met every challenge head-on and completed each task safely and efficiently. It was truly my honor to sail with them and they proved once again why the U.S. Navy is second to none.”
The first stop after entering U.S. 2nd Fleet AOR was North Carolina to disembark elements of 26 MEU.
Landing craft, air cushioned (LCAC), and aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266, transported Marines, their vehicles and equipment ashore, marking the end to the Marines’ portion of the deployment.
The embarked Marine aircraft, consisting of four CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopters, 10 MV-22B Ospreys, five AV-8B Harriers, and three UH-1N Hueys, flew off the ship for the last time during the offload to return to Jacksonville, North Carolina.
After offloading the Marines, family and friends of Sailors were brought aboard Kearsarge, Ponce, and Carter Hall, for a ‘Tiger Cruise’. The guests were given the opportunity to witness many of the day to day tasking Sailors face aboard the ships of the ARG.
“I think that our Sailors on Ponce are very proud of their ship and they’re very proud of who they work with and what they accomplish every day being in the Navy,” said Capt. Brad Skillman, commanding officer, USS Ponce. “To be able to share that with their family and friends I think is not only a key benefit to the Sailor, but also for their families to understand that we’re very busy out here and that their Sailor is making a difference.”
Kearsarge ARG was relieved by Bataan ARG in the 6th Fleet AOR.
By Scott Pittman (navy)
Source: navy, May 17, 2011;