The U.S. Navy’s amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU), returned to their homeport and namesake city, San Diego, Feb. 2, after completing a seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific, Mediterranean, Horn of Africa and Middle East.
The San Diego and 15th MEU team were also comprised of Sailors and Marines from Assault Craft Unit 5, Beachmaster Unit 1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 (reinforced), Battalion Landing Team 1/5 and Combat Logistics Battalion 15. Working together cohesively was key to all they accomplished on deployment.
“Our Blue-Green team proved themselves time and time again to be a professional and versatile contingency response force whether it was at sea, in the sky or on land,” said Capt. Rome Ruiz, Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3. “As an amphibious task force, our ships gained extensive experience by working with various partner nations and ship platforms which contributed to the increasing strength of our combat power. I am proud to have been part of this deployment and proud to have served with this talented team.”
“This was a very successful deployment overseas,” said Marine 1st Sgt. Albert Martinez, senior enlisted leader of the landing force aboard San Diego. “Coordination and transparency of communication from the top down is what allowed us to conduct missions as a team and ensure the safety of our Marines and Sailors.”
The integrated team conducted several operations and training missions while deployed; Sustainment Training Exercise (SUSTEX), off the coast of Hawaii, tested San Diego and the 15th MEU’s capabilities and combat assessment; Alligator Dagger, a full amphibious assault combat rehearsal in Djibouti; casualty evacuation, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel in Northern Africa.
“We had units from the ARG/MEU team operating in several countries and two different fleets simultaneously,” said Capt. Pete Collins, commanding officer of San Diego. “The spread of personnel, geographic influence and contributions to the fight in theater was well received and important to several peripheral missions making this a successful deployment for the Blue-Green team.”
San Diego sailed over 40,000 nautical miles and successfully navigated through the Suez Canal, the Balabac Strait, Surigao Strait, Strait of Malacca, Singapore Strait, Bab-al-Mendab Strait and Strait of Tiran.
However, it wasn’t all work and no play. San Diego made port calls to Thailand, Vietnam, Greece, Jordan, Guam and Hawaii. Ship, MEU Sailors and Marines were able to experience a variety of cultures, taste local cuisines and participate in tours coordinated by the ship’s Moral, Welfare and Recreational (MWR) team while on liberty.
“One of the greatest parts of deployment was visiting a multitude of ports,” said Marine Cpl. Freddie Pagan of the 15th MEU. “I enlisted in the military to see the world and this deployment really did that for me. It was an honor to be an ambassador of the United States.”
On the final stretch of San Diego’s journey, family and friends of Sailors and Marines aboard received the opportunity to join them on a tiger cruise, allowing loved ones the opportunity to see what daily shipboard life was like.
“It was a great opportunity to have my father aboard for the tiger cruise and it was extremely fun comparing stories from when he was in the Navy, reminding him just how exciting daily shipboard life can be,” said Seaman Patrick Smith. “It was especially exciting to show my father the role I played on the ship during the big offload of all the Marines and their equipment while in theater.”
On the last days of deployment, Marines from the 15th MEU said goodbye to San Diego and disembarked to return to their own home bases throughout Southern California.
“This was my second deployment and by far the better of the two,” said Marine Cpl. Chris Quinn. “It was great to be able to be a part of the San Diego’s A-team. I’m really going to miss the brothers and sisters I made during my time on this ship.”
Many also accomplished significant milestones in their careers and completed some of the hardest qualifications offered aboard San Diego. The Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist qualification was awarded to 157 Sailors, 104 Sailors earned the Enlisted Information Warfare Specialist Qualification and two officers received the Surface Warfare Officer Qualifications.
Over the course of the deployment the integrated Blue-Green team aboard San Diego was responsible for the transfer of 2,956,000 pounds of cargo; successfully conducted 40 landing craft, air cushion LCAC landing and recoveries; produced 6.3 million gallons of potable water; and conducted 18 replenishments-at-sea where they received over 2.8 million gallons of fuel and 87,100 pounds of mail.
“The Blue and Green team exceeded all of my expectations and I couldn’t be more proud of what we forged together, as this was anything but a standard deployment,” said San Diego’s Command Master Chief, Benjamin Faulise. “This is truly the best team that I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. Here on the San Diego we aren’t just a team, we’re a family.”
Under the operational control of PHIBRON 3, additional units deployed with the Amphibious Task Force consisted of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 23), and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 1 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 15th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force comprised of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; an aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced); and a combat logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 15.
U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions that promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the Pacific.
Dalton Caples, USS San Diego (LPD 22)