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Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group MED 03 Deployment
LHD-7 Iwo Jima
"Uncommon Valor"

The USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Ready Group, departed from their East Coast home ports March 4, 2003, along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), from its East Coast home ports, in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The Iwo Jima ARG is composed of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 6; the multipurpose amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima; amphibious transport dock USS Nashville (LPD 13); the dock-landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50).

After departing Norfolk, the ships of the Iwo Jima ARG were heading to North Carolina to pick up Marines from the 26 MEU, along with 36 helicopters and six AV-8B Harrier jets from New River and Cherry Point Marine Corps Station.

The deployment came as the United States and Coalition Forces were staging a massive build-up in the Persian Gulf prior to a potential war with Iraq. As a result of the rapid deployment of several other amphibious Norfolk-based assets earlier in the year, Iwo ARG Sailors and Marines may find themselves in a position to spend more than eight months underway, two months greater than the traditional six-month deployment

The ARG was the last to leave the Norfolk area, and the three amphibious ships will join approximately 45 other Tidewater-based ships already deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During the deployment, all three ships in the ARG deployed Marines in Iraq. The ARG's support of operations in Iraq was cut short in August, when they were ordered from the gulf to Liberia to support peacekeeping efforts. Once there, the 26th MEU/SOC provided a stabilizing presence, which allowed multinational forces from other Western African countries to come in and handle the problem so humanitarian operations could be conducted.

Completing essentially four deployments in one, IWO JIMA's operational capabilities were put to the test as the ship inserted marines from the 26 MEU (SOC) into Northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, patrolled the Persian Gulf, conducted operations in and around Djibouti as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and executed a peacekeeping missions off the coast of war-torn Liberia, transiting more tha 45,000 nautical miles.

More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines attached to the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will return from deployment Oct. 24, 2003.

The staff of Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet officially embarked USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Nov. 17, 2004, in the inaugural experiment of its Deployable Distributed Command and Control System, or simply "Distributed Staff." By leveraging emerging collaborative information environment systems, the 2nd Fleet staff hoped to operate a leaner, forward staff element embarked on its flagship while simultaneously relying upon a "reachback" staff element that will expand the reach of operational staff through a much more robust and magnified intelligence and planning function. In the near term, the distributed plan called for a core staff of about 80 members of the 350-member staff to operate from aboard the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, Iwo Jima. The remainder of the staff was to operate a reachback headquarters on the Naval Station waterfront, where its much greater shore communications capability would facilitate significantly greater coordination of interagency knowledge.

Chronology

    24 Oct 2003 - Returns to Norfolk
    21 Oct 2003 - MEU Download
    21 Oct 2003 - Onslow Bay
    14 Oct 2003 - Atlantic Ocean
    06 Oct 2003 - port call @ Rota, Spain
    04 Aug 2003 - Elements arrive off Liberia
    31 Jul 2003 - Atlantic Ocean
    25 Jul 2003 - Ordered to reposition near Liberia
    23 Jul 2003 - Mediterranean Sea
    22 Jul 2003 - Transit Suez Canal
    21 Jul 2003 - Red Sea
    20 Jul 2003 - Ordered to Mediterrean
    18 Jul 2003 - MEU returns to ARG
    11 Jun 2003 - Gulf of Aden
    06 Jun 2003 - Transits Suez
    29 May 2003 - MEU returns to ARG
    17 May 2003 - Deploys MEU into Albania
    02 May 2003 - Completed MEU upload
    30 Apr 2003 - Port Call at Souda Bay
    24 Apr 2003 - Marines return to ARG
    12 Apr 2003 - Marines Ordered to N. Iraq
    28 Mar 2003 - Enters Mediterranean Sea
    04 Mar 2003 - Deploys
    late Jan 2003 - exercises off E. Coast



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