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Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group Completes Preparations for Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050228-09
Release Date: 2/28/2005 7:56:00 PM

From USS Kearsarge Strike Group Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) successfully completed its final exercise before deployment and returned to port in Norfolk, Va., Feb. 25 with full certifications required to deploy.

This underway period focused on certifying the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as Special Operations Capable (SOC), while the Navy ships in the ESG focused on supporting the Marines and polishing their tactical precision.

"This exercise further solidified the blue-green relationship we need for deployment and gave us a greater appreciation for the complexity of their missions," said Capt. Edward Barfield, commander, Kearsarge Strike Group. "The Navy team was in full support of Marine missions ashore."

Between Marine missions, the Navy units worked on their final preparations. Although the Navy portion of the Kearsarge ESG was already certified ready for deployment, the strike group leadership focused on several areas they wanted to polish.

"This was our last opportunity to come together as a strike group before deployment and to ensure that our team was ready," said Cmdr. Paul McElroy, Kearsarge Strike Group Operations officer. "We had a few areas that we were really concentrating on, and we've made some great strides. We are ready and anxious to deploy."

Particular areas of Navy focus included maritime interdiction operations, strike warfare, air defense and amphibious operations. The Marines were evaluated on virtually all mission capabilities, which included helicopter and mechanized raids, non-combat evacuations and humanitarian assistance.

"I really feel our team is prepared for success and will be ready to tackle whatever mission we are assigned on deployment," said Barfield. "We are ready to go now."

The Marine Corps Special Operations Training Group embarked numerous evaluators to certify the readiness of the 26 MEU and the Kearsarge Strike Group staffs during this underway. The evaluators gave the Kearsarge ESG high marks and recommended that the 26 MEU be certified as Special Operations Capable pending final approval.

The Kearsarge ESG is composed of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15), the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), the cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), the guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59), the fast-attack submarine USS Sscranton (SSN 756) and the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The 26 MEU, primarily based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., is composed of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter(HMM) Squadron 162 (Reinforced) and MEU Service Support Group 26.

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