USS Kearsarge leaves Middle East; Boxer moves in
Ships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group sail in formation June 16, 2013. The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, made up of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), has left the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility after an eventful six-month deployment.
Stars and Stripes
MANAMA, Bahrain — Encompassing the volatile Middle East and northeast Africa, the 5th Fleet area of responsibility can be tense at any time. But for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, the past six months were particularly eventful.
Since it deployed to the Middle East in April, ships with the ready group were poised to respond to the escalating situation in Syria.
Over the past 6 months the ready group with approximately 2,400 Marines embarked from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Camp Lejeune, N.C. gave the U.S. 5th Fleet “options and alternatives for contingency responses, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and theater security cooperation,” said Brig. Gen. Gregg Olson, Commander of Task Force 51, which plans for contingency response operations in the region.
In July, the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, and USS San Antonio, a transport dock ship, were “parked off of Egypt,” according to U.S. Marine Corps officials, to potentially respond to a crisis as political unrest that led to the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi escalated.
In addition, the group participated in four multinational exercises. Eager Lion, a 19-nation exercise in Jordan, took place in June as the crisis in Syria was heating up.
When the use of chemical weapons in Syria nearly led to a U.S. military strike on the country in September, the San Antonio was sent to the Mediterranean Sea, along with five U.S. Navy destroyers to potentially contribute to military action.
The San Antonio was recently in the headlines for holding Abu Anas al-Libi, who was captured in Libya during a U.S. special operations raid on Oct. 5. Interrogators reportedly questioned Al-Libi for about a week aboard the ship. According to news reports, he has been transferred to New York to stand trial on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
“Although we’ve had a long deployment thus far, the Marines and Sailors of the MEU know that the mission is not over,” Col. Matthew St. Clair, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit commander, wrote to family and friends in a post on the unit’s official Facebook page, after the ready group departed 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility Saturday. “As we left 5th Fleet, it was a bittersweet moment, knowing all the hard work that (went) into the successful operations conducted.”
The USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group with 1,800 Sailors and 2,400 embarked Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit have assumed the watch in the Middle East. The San Diego-based group left its home port in August.