After seven months deployed to the Europe, Africa and the Middle East areas of operation, over 4,500 Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Sailors and Marines safely returned home July 18 upon completion of a successful deployment.
“The Kearsarge ARG’s deployment provided the U.S. Department of Defense with a versatile amphibious force option with forward presence in support of regional partners to safeguard waterways and provide an ability to react to emerging crises,” said Kearsarge ARG Commodore Capt. Joseph O’Brien. “To that end, the Kearsarge ARG participated in Operation Deliberate Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and multiple other named operations to further security and stability in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.”
According to O’Brien, the mobile, scalable, and self-sustaining nature of the Kearsarge ARG allowed it to perform precision amphibious strikes and support various security cooperation efforts in three geographically separate locations during its deployment.
“Naval forces are inherently flexible and ready to respond to emergent tasking around the globe to provide combatant commanders with critically needed capabilities,” said O’Brien. “This ARG’s ability to disaggregate forces and operate efficiently and effectively across multiple areas of responsibility during this deployment enabled us to simultaneously fulfill the security requirements of three combatant commanders and that’s no easy task. It took a lot of coordination, training, and expertise from the deck plates up the chain of command and I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
The deployment afforded the Kearsarge ARG with an opportunity to enhance the interoperability of Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces with partner nations and allies through their participation in eight military exercises, including Exercise Alexander the Great, Exercise Sea Soldier, and Exercise BALTOPS 2019. In total, the Kearsarge ARG made port calls to a combined 13 different countries in the Middle East and Europe.
“These were truly unique visits for many of our Sailors and Marines,” said USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Commanding Officer Capt. Jason Rimmer. “Most of them had probably never been to places like Greece, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, or Spain before this deployment — now they can say they’ve visited all of those places and a few more. I always say that is one of the greatest benefits of joining our military. You get to travel to unique places and gain a deeper appreciation for other cultures, nations, and strengthen relationships with their people through firsthand, meaningful experiences.”
There were other unique experiences during the Kearsarge ARG’s deployment. Lt. Thomas Hendricks, a naval aviator attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, was the first Sailor to fly the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey during actual operations.
“There are exciting times and there are frustrating times being the first at anything,” said Hendricks, a Navy pioneer of Osprey piloting. “But I think ultimately this will be good for the Navy.”
He said that he is proud to be a part of this aviation modernization effort to equip the fleet with the most technologically advanced platforms that more effectively meet operational requirements. Hendricks added the Osprey will eventually replace the C-2A Greyhound as the primary passenger carrier onboard delivery vehicle for aircraft carriers.
Each Kearsarge ARG Sailor and Marine has his or her own interpretation of what made the deployment a success. For Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Jaime Valencia, the Kearsarge flight deck leading chief petty officer, it was about the safety and protection of those he led.
“This deployment was definitely successful,” said Valencia. “Every time that we are able to bring everyone home unharmed, I call that a success. Our people are our most important asset. And just like I told the division on day one, as long as I can bring everyone home with ten fingers and ten toes, I can consider my job successful.”
For others, like USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) Training Officer, Lt. Greg Bryant, it was a chance for his to team to demonstrate current and future readiness.
“The training we were able to accomplish during our deployment, and specifically BALTOPS, will prove important to maintaining our readiness,” said Bryant. “I am proud of the way our crew handled every obstacle and challenge we faced during our seven months out to sea.”
The Kearsarge ARG consists of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), the dock landing ship Fort McHenry, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 2 and FST 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Amphibious Squadron 6.
The Kearsarge ARG is returning from a regularly-scheduled deployment , where Sailors and Marines provided a ready, versatile amphibious assault capability and vigilant maritime presence in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.