Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group WESTPAC 16 Deployment
The Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) was comprised of Whidbey Island; Commander, Amphibious Squadron 6; the 22nd MEU; amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).
More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines from the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22 MEU) departed from Norfolk and Little Creek, Virginia, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 25 June 2016. The deployment was part of a regular rotation of forces to support maritime security operations, provide crisis response capability and increase theater security cooperation while providing a forward naval presence in the U.S Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation.
The Wasp ARG was commanded by Capt. F. Bryan Ogden, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 6 and is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), both homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia. "Every Sailor and Marine has worked tirelessly in preparation for this deployment," said Ogden. "After months of training this Navy and Marine Corps team has come together and is a very capable amphibious force."
The 22nd MEU, consisting of more than 2,200 Marines, is commanded by Marine Col. Todd P. Simmons. Prior to deployment, the unit spent 26 weeks training in mission areas such as security operations, humanitarian relief and amphibious raids. The Wasp ARG/22 MEU team will provide combatant commanders a versatile sea-based force that can be tailored to a variety of missions, including quick reaction crisis response options on sea, shore, and land in support of the nation's maritime strategy.
Amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17) completed a 10-day, mid-deployment maintenance availability at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Oct. 7. Mid-deployment maintenance availabilities are commonly scheduled to allow U.S. naval vessels to complete repairs and maintenance that would normally take place in home port, allowing the ship to continue fully mission capable throughout the remainder of the deployment.
"The crew put forth a truly monumental effort to correct as many material discrepancies as they could conceivably do, given such a limited timeframe," said Chief Engineer Lt. Cmdr. Quinn Matt. "Our stay in port allowed us to ensure we could continue to support San Antonio's mission." Between work days, San Antonio's Sailors and embarked Marines took advantage of the time ashore to participate in Morale, Welfare and Recreation tours, visit the local markets and relax after spending the past month at sea. For two days, many members of the command volunteered at the Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as part of a community relations project (COMREL), helping groom, walk and otherwise socialize animals from the shelter.
"The COMREL was a great chance for the Sailors and Marines to get off the ship and interact with the local community," said Lt. Lara Byrd, the ship's chaplain and COMREL organizer. "The dogs and cats were a great reminder of home. These events show that our Sailors and Marines are here for more than just warfighting - they care about the communities they visit." This marked San Antonio's fourth port of call during her deployment. San Antonio previously visited Spain, Israel and Oman.
San Antonio deployed as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. Commander, Amphibious Squadron Six commands the Wasp ARG, which consisted of San Antonio, amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LPD 17), and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). The 22nd MEU was embarked on the ARG.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) completed the final portion of its first deployment in 12 years when it finished offloading the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Dec. 22. She will be #Homefortheholidays when she returns to her homeport of Naval Station Norfolk on Dec. 24. While deployed, Wasp's crew completed a certification validation (CV) enabling the ship to forward deploy to Sasebo, Japan, next year. The rotation is the latest move in the Navy's ongoing Pacific rebalance. "This crew did their jobs in amazing fashion during this deployment," said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. "They often had to do deployment certification drills part of the day and fight ISIL the other. Not to mention, we simultaneously carried out the massive day-to-day operations that are required to run a deployed Navy warship."
CVs are designed to support deployment certification extensions when necessary. They include a comprehensive assessment of most mission areas to make sure a ship is ready to get underway quickly. "We do certification validations on the rare occasion that a ship needs to get underway within a short time frame after deployment for events such as re-deployment," said Afloat Training Group (ATG) Tactical Mentor Lt. Cmdr. Michael Myers. "The fact that we completed CV testing phases while the ship was also doing real-world operations is unprecedented both for a ship and for ATG. We had to de-conflict with replenishments-at-sea, flight operations, and normal ship operations."
Areas tested during the CV included navigation, seamanship, communications, explosive safety, search-and-rescue plotting, engineering, and damage control. "We went at least 14 weeks at a minimum of 14-20 hour days," said Master at Arms 1st Class Jeffery Martinez. "My crew is exhausted, but at the end of the day we passed, we got our recertification done. It required a lot of work and a lot of effort by my crew to get the job done and I'm very proud of them. Now it's time to go home and get some time off, some well-deserved liberty earned by everybody." A large portion of the drills were completed while the crew was simultaneously carrying out Operation Odyssey Lightning (OOL). On Aug. 1 the 22nd MEU was ordered carry to out precision air strikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, in support of the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces fighting there.
Wasp was initially on station supporting OOL for 100 consecutive days before being relieved by the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), another ship in the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). "It's amazing to see what the American Sailor can do," said Wasp Command Master Chief Gregory Carlson. "I think it was amazing that we not only focused on combat operations but also focus on our own training repetition. Whether it was damage control, force protection, or the IT training done for radio, it's nice to go back to basics and make sure we can execute the core fundamentals of the ship."
On Dec. 6 GNA-aligned forces claimed liberation of the city. "I'm very humbled by what we've been able to accomplish," Carlson continued. "I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what these Sailors and Marines have done." Over the course of the 180-day deployment, Wasp transited more than 34,000 nautical miles, and logged more than 14,300 flight hours. The crew also took on more than 1,280 pallets of cargo during 18 replenishment-at-sea evolutions.
Additionally, Wasp, Amphibious Squadron Six (PHIBRON Six), and the 22nd MEU took part in Exercise African Sea Lion, a bi-lateral cooperation exercise with the Moroccan Royal Navy, and supported maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Wasp was deployed as part of the Wasp ARG to both the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations. Commander, PHIBRON Six commands the Wasp ARG, which consists of San Antonio, Wasp, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).
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