Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group MED 06 Deployment
Omnius Fasimus: "We Do It All"
Commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 8 embarked USS Saipan (LHA 2) May 18 in preparation for the multinational combined exercise Phoenix Express in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and Western Mediterranean Sea early in the summer of 2006. Comphibron 8, assigned to Commander, Amphibious Group (COMPHIBGRU) 2 along with Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 4, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4, and Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, all of Little Creek, Va., and Helicopter Support Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 of Norfolk, Va., moved aboard Saipan to participate in Phoenix Express.
Saipan left its homeport of Norfolk, Va., 15 August 2006 and began a surge deployment to the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility. Saipan, with nearly 1,000 Sailors, departed Naval Station Norfolk Aug. 15 with Norfolk-based Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Two-Six (HCS 26) for the Sixth and Fifth Fleet Areas of Operation in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). This surge deployment was designed to be flexible and provided presence and strike power to support joint and allied forces afloat and ashore.
During this deployment Saipan employed several non-traditional capabilities including Mine Countermeasure Operations and the Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle system. Saipan's use of the Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle included the performance of over 400 hours of surveillance and the completion of more than 50 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions.
Using the MH-53 Sea Dragons of Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 out of Bahrain, Saipan conducted two demonstrations of mine sweeping capabilities in the Arabian Gulf during the months of September and November.
The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) along with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15) "Blackhawks" successfully conducted a mine countermeasure exercise in the Arabian Gulf 19 September 2006. The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2), along with the "Blackhawks" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, successfully conducted a mine sweeping training event in the Persian Gulf 07 November 2006. HM-15 Blackhawk personnel flew HM-53E Sea Dragons that towed MK-105 Magnetic Influence Minesweeping Systems, better known as "sleds," which are high-speed catamaran hydrofoil platforms.
"The 'sled' is a high speed sweep, so you're looking at a faster and safer way to clear waterways vice using conventional ship sweeping," said Capt. Jeffrey Harbeson, commander of Destroyer Squadron 50. "The 'sled' is good for sweeping magnetic and acoustic mines, giving more flexibility and speed to the mission." Throughout the years, mine sweeping countermeasure operations have proven to be an important asset to the Navy, because they provide the ability to protect ships and their crews from seemingly invisible threats in the water.
The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) returned to Naval Station Norfolk Friday, Dec. 22, after completing a four month deployment as Expeditionary Action Group 3 (EAG-3). This marked the final deployment for Saipan, which was scheduled for decommissioning in early spring 2007.
Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2 returned to their homeport at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek 22 December 2007, after a six-month deployment aboard the amphibious transport dock ships USS Nashville (LPD 13) and USS Trenton (LPD 14), elements of the USS Saipan (LHA 2) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). BMU 2 provided beach and surf zone salvage support in the landing and movement of troops, equipment, and supplies.
One of the biggest operations performed by BMU 2 was participation in the evacuation of American citizens from Lebanon. The Officer in Charge (OIC) of Beach Party Team 1, Ensign David Williams, who was aboard Nashville, spoke about the array of challenges the units faced. "Our workups were non-combatant evacuations, which we've never done before," Williams said. "There was a lot that happened that we were trained for, and the lessons learned from the Lebanon evacuation will be instituted not only at this command, but with the Marines and Assault Craft Unit." When Nashville and Trenton arrived in Lebanon, BMU 2 helped transport more than 2,000 Americans to the ships from ashore.
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