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LHD-8 Makin Island Expeditionary Strike Group WESTPAC 14

Nearly 4,500 Sailors and Marines with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) returned to San Diego Feb. 25, following a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.

Deployed since July 25, the Makin Island ARG and 11th MEU conducted a relocation of National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration researchers from Tropical Storm Iselle near Hawaii, conducted air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, worked with British and Kuwaiti forces in Exercise Cougar Voyage 14, participated in Exercise Red Reef 15 with Saudi Arabian forces and performed Marine sustainment exercises in Kuwait and Djibouti.

"We've had a very intense deployment that required us to execute multiple mission sets simultaneously for long periods of time. The superb professionalism and work ethic of all members of the ARG/MEU team ensured we met and exceeded the mark every time," said Capt. Steve McKone, Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5. "I know these Sailors and Marines are excited to be home."

The Makin Island ARG, led by PHIBRON 5, consists of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), PHIBRON 5 staff, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 (HSC-23) Detachment 2, scheduled to return to its home base on Naval Air Station North Island Feb. 24, Fleet Surgical Team 5, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, Assault Craft Unit 5 and Beach Master Unit 1.

The 11th MEU was comprised of the 11th MEU Command Element; the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); the Ground Combat Element, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines; and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

"The Sailors and Marines on this ship performed exceptionally well during this deployment," said USS Makin Island Commanding Officer, Capt. Jon P. Rodgers. "This deployment marked the first for more than 65 percent of the crew. The teamwork was exceptional!"

During the deployment, the ARG transited nearly 35,000 nautical miles, flew approximately 3,100 sorties, and logged nearly 5,020 flight hours. Amphibious craft completed more than 4,000 passenger transfers and moved more than 90,000 tons of equipment to and from the shore.

"The Sailors of HSC-23 Detachment 2 provided support for all facets of aviation operations during deployment with the USS Makin Island ARG and the 11th MEU," said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Adams, HSC-23's officer-in-charge. "It was truly an honor to be a part of the exceptional effort, dedication, and professionalism displayed by the ARG/MEU team during this deployment."

This deployment was the first for San Diego and the second for Makin Island. The Makin Island ARG conducted port visits in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Jordan, collectively. The visits provided an opportunity for the U.S. military forces to strengthen ties with the host nations and foster relationships. The Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU relieved the Makin Island ARG in the 5th Fleet AOR in January.

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