USS Kearsarge, USS Arlington return to Norfolk after seven-month deployment
By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: July 19, 2019
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune news Service) — The USS Kearsarge and USS Arlington returned to Norfolk on Thursday following a seven-month deployment. They were greeted by cheering friends, family members, newborn babies and even a few tail-wagging dogs.
The Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship that carries Marines and their aircraft and serves as the flagship for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, which includes the Arlington and the USS Fort McHenry. The Arlington is an amphibious transport dock and the Fort McHenry is a dock landing ship based in Florida.
All three ships supported the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which, in turn, supported operations in Syria and Afghanistan. More than 6,000 flights took off from the Kearsarge alone. Capt. Joseph O'Brien, the group's commodore, said the deployment was unique because the ships spent most of their time far apart.
"I had three ships that were never together. They were dispersed across the globe," he said.
Here are a few other interesting things about the deployment.
The crew saved a British mariner
Shortly after leaving Norfolk in December, the Kearsarge answered a distress call from the British-flagged motor vessel Eddy Stone in the Atlantic Ocean. A member of the Stone's crew was having a medical problem. A helicopter from the Arlington was dispatched to bring him to the Kearsarge. There, he was treated in the ship's main battle dressing station. Capt. Jason Rimmer, the Kearsarge's commanding officer, said his crew "undoubtedly" saved the mariner's life. The British sailor was later taken to a hospital in Bermuda.
Sailors became fathers
Some Kearsarge sailors became fathers while they were out to sea. The ship had 21 sailors who had to wait until their deployment was over to meet their son or daughter. Once the ship was moored at Naval Station Norfolk, new dads sprinted down the pier to meet their new offspring. Some cried tears of joy as they held their baby for the first time.
The Kearsarge teamed up with an aircraft carrier
As tensions with Iran heated up, the amphibious group conducted operations alongside the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group in the Middle East. The exercises included air-to-air training, steaming in formation and maneuvering, and establishing joint communications to "rapidly enable a command and control environment," according to the Navy.
The rare interaction also gave F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots assigned to the Lincoln and AV-8B Harrier pilots assigned to the Kearsarge an opportunity to train against one another. Super Hornets from the Lincoln and Harriers and attack helicopters from the Kearsarge also conducted a joint close air support exercise.
They made a parody of "The Office"
The Kearsarge had a lot of serious work to do on deployment, but that doesn't mean its crew didn't have a sense of humor. Sailors in the personnel department starred in several episodes of a program they dubbed "Personnel" that was a play on the popular television series "The Office." The ship's series featured a musical introduction and a scripted comedy shot in the same style as "The Office." But unlike the TV show, the Kearsarge version focuses on issues the personnel department faces, and finds clever ways to remind sailors of things like keeping track of their previous evaluations. The ship posted several episodes on its Facebook page.
They rocked with "American Authors"
At the tail-end of their deployment in Spain, the crew was treated to a concert by the rock band "American Authors" at Naval Station Rota. The band is best known for its hit "Best Day of My Life." The Kearsarge's commanding officer got on stage and played guitar with the band. Prior to the concert, the band took a tour aboard the ship and got a close-up view of the inside of the cockpit of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.