The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), comprised of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), along with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) arrived in Souda Bay, Crete, Jan. 20, 2024, for a regularly scheduled port visit following the completion of a large scale MEU(SOC) exercise Odyssey Encore in Greece alongside the 32nd Hellenic Marine Brigade.
While in port, the Bataan ARG and 26th MEU(SOC) team will conduct routine maintenance following several months of distributed operations and activities within the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations since July 2023.
“The last six months has showcased the value, utility, and operational flexibility a forward-deployed ARG and MEU(SOC) provide in terms of campaigning and crisis response,” said Col. Dennis “Dolf” Sampson, commanding officer of the 26th MEU(SOC). “Our recent MEU(SOC) Exercise “Odyssey Encore” and the integrated training with the Hellenic 32nd Marine Brigade and Hellenic SOF was essential to sustaining our operational capabilities and readiness across the MEU(SOC) Marine Air-Ground Task Force. This port visit will provide an opportunity to conduct normal required maintenance and inspections of our vehicles and equipment prior to getting underway for the next phase in our deployment. More so, it will provide the Marines and Sailors with some quality, well-earned liberty and an opportunity to enjoy the local culture in Crete.”
Souda Bay marks the second port visit for majority of the Sailors and Marines of the Bataan ARG and 26th MEU(SOC) to the U.S. Naval Force Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) area of responsibility following their re-aggregation in the Mediterranean, Dec. 28. During this visit they will have the opportunity to explore Souda Bay, participate in community relations projects and cultural excursions hosted by each ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation committees.
“This is my last port visit as I depart the Bataan after six years, and I am looking forward to seeing historical places from 1,000 years ago,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class Gerald Labtis. “I will cherish and treasure every bit of it.”