USA: Bataan Amphibious Ready Group Marks 180 Deployed Days
Sailors and Marines of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) marked 180 days of deployment Sept. 18.
The BATARG deployed three months ahead of schedule to relieve the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU on station in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and have since conducted a wide range of operations in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet AORs.
The ships assigned to the BATARG include multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).
“I am tremendously proud of the men and women who are serving out here,” said Cmdr. Stuart Mattfield, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 6 chief staff officer. “Their dedication and personal commitment to excellence have made our first six months out at sea a success. I know they will continue to press forward with the same drive and professionalism until our mission is complete and we bring everyone safely home.”
In addition to providing support to coalition forces operating during Operation Unified Protector, the BATARG and elements of the 22nd MEU have conducted bilateral amphibious exercises and engagements with Sailors and Marines from Spain, Greece, France, Italy, and Romania. The engagements with international partners included amphibious operations from the well decks of all three platforms, flight operations, parachute and fast rope drills, medical evacuations and non-combatant evacuation (NEO) training.
“We’ve had to be very flexible,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Gregory Halsey, assigned to CPR 6. “It’s been the most dynamic environment and we have to be prepared to respond to so many different scenarios, such as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, humanitarian assistance, and NEO. We’ve come quite a ways from Day 1 – we’ve literally done a complete 180.”
“The blue-green team has really bonded together over the past 180 days,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eduardo Nuno with the 22nd MEU’s Combat Logistics Battalion. “We respect each other and work alongside each other to complete the mission.”
Due to the highly operational environment, deployments are considered the best time for Sailors to work on professional warfare qualifications such as the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) and the Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist (EAWS) pins.
To date, more than 180 Sailors throughout the BATARG have earned ESWS pins, with more than 70 earning EAWS pins.
“The ESWS pin represents a Sailor’s knowledge and dedication to learning about their ship,” said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist (SW/AW) Eric Twining, Bataan’s ESWS coordinator. “Enrollment and qualifications have grown exponentially since we left in March. The team of subject matter experts that contribute are really the force behind the program.”
Embarked Marines have made efficient use of available space in the hangar bays and well decks of their ships to continue their Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) training. The MCMAP training is designed to increase the combat efficiency of Marines through a combination of team-building exercises and close-quarters combat techniques.
As a result of the regular training and conditioning, many Marines have advanced well beyond the required tan belt, said Nuno.
In addition to accomplishing professional milestones, BATARG Sailors and Marines have also used the past six months at sea to fulfill personal goals, such as saving money, signing up for Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) courses, paying down debt, or becoming more physically fit.
“I’ve completed three college courses in English, business, and history since we left,” said Halsey, who is working on a degree in business administration. “I’ve signed up for the NCPACE course in psychology, which will begin soon. I’ve also paid off my debt and am building up my nest egg.”
Sailors and Marines expressed their intention to continue the momentum they’ve gained well beyond their return to homeport.
“I pretty much begged for this deployment so that I could work on my ESWS pin,” said Cryptology Technician Network 2nd Class Benjamin Gill, assigned to CPR 6. “I’m also paying off my credit cards and hope to set myself up financially to buy a house when we get back.”
“During this 180 days at sea, I have become more qualified in-rate and as a Sailor,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Paul Thomas, assigned to Bataan. “This experience has made me stronger. When we get home, I don’t plan on stopping.”
Bataan and Whidbey Island are currently supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR while Mesa Verde is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet AOR.
Source: navy, September 23, 2011;