Sailors and Marines of the USS America (LHA 6) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) returned to their homeport at Naval Station San Diego, Feb. 2, after a successful seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific, Middle East, Mediterranean, and Horn of Africa regions.
During the deployment, more than 4,500 Sailors and Marines of the America ARG and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in support of regional security, stability, and the free flow of maritime commerce.
America ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52). During deployment, the three ships reported to Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, embarked aboard America, operating with embarked forces of 15th MEU, 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.
“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, 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.”
Throughout deployment, the ARG/MEU participated in a variety of exercises with partners throughout the Indo-Pacific, Mediterranean and Middle East regions, which strengthened partnerships and increased combat readiness, amphibious and crisis-response capabilities, and communication between U.S. and partner nation forces. In the western Pacific, Sailors and Marines worked with militaries from Singapore, Malaysia, and India. In the Middle East, the team participated in exercises with a variety of partners during bilateral engagements such as Iron Magic with the United Arab Emirates and the combat rehearsal Alligator Dagger, which was conducted in Djibouti.
“Our Sailors and Marines did an absolutely fantastic job this deployment,” said Cmdr. Theodore Essenfeld, Pearl Harbor’s commanding officer. “I could not have asked for a better team to come together to complete each mission we were tasked with. During Iron Magic and Alligator Dagger, the coordination between the Navy-Marine Corps team effectively projected power from the sea and ashore. At the same time, we gained the knowledge and training to make us a more cohesive team.”
As Pearl Harbor and America conducted operations in the Middle East, San Diego represented the ARG/MEU team as they operated in the Mediterranean Sea. The steadfast and formidable presence of San Diego and the 15th MEU in the region decisively advanced stability and security objectives across North 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.”
Sailors and Marines of the ARG/MEU had the opportunity to visit several foreign ports during the duration of the deployment. Through these port visits, the crews were able to immerse themselves in diverse cultures and allow the local populace to interact with them in various activities such as tours and community relations projects. The ships visited ports in Singapore, Greece, Jordan, India, Hawaii, Guam, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bahrain, Israel and United Arab Emirates. The ARG/MEU also conducted 11 community relation projects in five countries with 280 Sailors and Marines participating.
The end of this deployment is uniquely significant for America, as it was their inaugural deployment.
“Since the ship left for her first operational deployment seven months ago, this crew has grown exponentially in skill and professionalism,” said Capt. Joe Olson, commanding officer of America. “Our Sailors and the Marines of the 15th MEU fulfilled their tasking proficiently, effectively, and with heart. I am honored to have served with these men and women and we are excited to be home.”