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Kearsarge Transits Suez Canal

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040726-12
Release Date: 7/26/2004 11:10:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Chris Hoffpauir, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) passed another milestone in the homeward leg of its current mission July 20, when it transited the Suez Canal.

Kearsarge left its homeport in Norfolk, Va., June 7 on a surge mission to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (AOR) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism.

The ship transported assets of the Air Combat Element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to a base in the Northern Arabian Gulf, in response to a Central Command request for additional personnel and equipment.

The historic waterway links the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, by way of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Sailing around Africa, vice transiting the canal, would add a week of travel to the journey.

The canal has existed in various forms since the 6th century B.C. In ancient times, one leg of the canal linked the Great Bitter Lake to the Red Sea, while another linked the lake to the Nile. Today's canal was designed by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps and inaugurated in 1869.

Kearsarge's transit began in the early morning at the Red Sea port of Suez, Egypt, and took more than 10 hours to complete, with the ship entering the Mediterranean at Port Said, Egypt, in the afternoon.

Many Kearsarge Sailors looked forward to the cooler temperatures and scenic beauty of the Mediterranean. But, with only a few weeks left before the ship returns home, others saw a different meaning when they looked out at the azure waves.

When asked what it meant to them, Aviation Structural Equipment Technician 3rd Class Jonathan Villegas and Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Airman John Mercer, both of Kearsarge's IM-4 division, answered in unison.

"We're going home!"

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