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Kearsarge ESG Completes Onload of 26 MEU, Heads Out on Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050330-20
Release Date: 3/30/2005 11:00:00 PM

From USS Kearsarge Strike Group Public Affairs

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) completed embarkation of the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) off the coast of North Carolina March 27, and is now headed east on their deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.

The ships of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group left Norfolk and proceeded south to pick up the Marines of the 26 MEU, primarily based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

After working long hours in order to prepare for deployment, most of the crew is excited about getting underway.

"It's a great feeling to be headed east after a demanding work-up schedule," said Cmdr. Paul McElroy, Kearsarge Strike Group operations officer. "The ESG is at a high state of readiness and is looking forward to several potential missions and exercises in the Middle East."

The Kearsarge Strike Group is expected to spend the majority of their deployment in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations and will support CENTCOM efforts in the global war on terrorism. The Kearsarge ESG will provide CENTCOM commanders with flexible and scalable options across the spectrum of conflict, from humanitarian assistance operations like tsunami relief efforts to a robust ground combat element for sustained operations ashore.

"Perhaps our greatest asset is our flexibility, which is a significant upgrade over previous Amphibious Ready Group deployments," said Capt. Edward Barfield, commander, Kearsarge Strike Group.

A large portion of the work-ups focused on integrating the Navy and Marine Corps units into one cohesive team that is prepared to execute any mission.

"The blue-green team is fully integrated and excited about supporting the war on terror at the pointy end of the spear," said McElroy.

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 frigate USS Kaufman (FFG 59), and the fast-attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 756). The 26 MEU is composed of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 162 (Reinforced) and MEU Service Support Group 26.

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