Amphibious ready group deploys in the Pacific after deadly sinking, coronavirus outbreak

A member of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit fast-ropes from a Navy MH-60S Seahawk during training aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 29, 2020.


By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2020

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The amphibious ready group that suffered the loss of eight Marines and a sailor during training off the California coast in July and a coronavirus outbreak last month is now conducting regular operations in the Pacific, a Navy spokesman said Monday.

“The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are underway and conducting routine operations in U.S. Third Fleet,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesman for the San Diego-based 3rd Fleet, told Stars and Stripes.

Citing operational security, Robertson declined to specify where the group — which includes the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and the amphibious transport docks USS San Diego and USS Somerset — was now operating or where it was headed.

Pacific Fleet referred questions about the ready group to 3rd Fleet.

Citing two unnamed defense officials, USNI News reported Monday that the ships had completed months of training with an exercise off Hawaii last week and were officially deployed as of Friday.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group were conducting a routine training exercise off San Clemente Island, Calif., July 30 when an amphibious assault vehicle carrying 16 personnel started taking on water.

The amphibious assault vehicle, which weighed about 26 tons, quickly sank in waters hundreds of feet deep. Nine of those aboard lost their lives.

The deployment workup was also hampered by the pandemic.

Last month, personnel with the 15th MEU tested positive for the virus while deployed in the Northern Pacific, according to the Marine Corps Times. They were quarantined aboard ship until they could be transferred to shore.

The Navy did not say how many personnel tested positive but maintained the infections did not affect the unit’s ability to complete its mission.

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Norfolk, Va., in late July after a seven-month deployment.

The Japan-based America Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has patrolled throughout the Western Pacific this year.

Twitter: @WyattWOlson