Essex ARG departs 5th Fleet, replaced by Kearsarge group
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2015
MANAMA, Bahrain — The Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed the 5th Fleet area of responsibility Sunday en route to the Pacific, to be replaced by the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Since arriving in June, the Essex group — the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore — has spread its assets across the region.
During one six-week period, personnel from the group were deployed to 11 countries, and the three ships were separately in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and off the Kenyan coast, said Lt. Col. Steve Kahn, the operations officer for the Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is attached to the ready group.
In addition to launching strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, the Essex group conducted joint operations and exercises with coalition partners, the Navy said.
The region is a vital transit route for one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Maritime operations have picked up pace over the past year, with U.S. ships heavily involved in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State and monitoring moves by Iran and the situation in war-wracked Yemen.
Although the Essex group was spread out at times, the group’s commanding officer said in a recent interview that the group could converge quickly if needed.
“There is no other nation in the world that could aggregate as much combat power as we can aggregate in as little time,” Capt. Clint Carroll said.
The Essex group is scheduled to return to its home port in San Diego in December after continuing operations with the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Pacific. The Kearsarge group arrived Saturday.