Kearsarge ESG Completes MSO as Part of U.S. 5th Fleet
Story Number: NNS050906-05
Release Date: 9/6/2005 2:11:00 PM
From Kearsarge Strike Group Public Affairs
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) -- The Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) completed its Maritime Security Operations (MSO) as part of the U.S. 5th Fleet as it passed through the Suez Canal, and exited into the Mediterranean Sea Aug. 30.
The Kearsarge ESG consists of six ships and a submarine and the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (Special Operations Capable). It has been assigned to U.S. 5th Fleet for more than four months.
“I am extremely proud of all the missions and exercises that we accomplished while assigned to 5th Fleet,” said Capt. Edward Barfield, commander Kearsarge ESG. "Every ship conducted their business in a most professional and efficient manner, which led to some outstanding successes. Even more importantly, we executed these missions safely and are headed home with everyone that we left with, which matters the most to me, and surely to the families and loved ones of these outstanding Sailors and Marines.”
During this scheduled deployment, the variety of capabilities and the innate flexibility of the ESG were on display while assigned to 5th Fleet. Capabilities ranged from MSO boarding missions to regional engagement with local armed forces to assisting mariners and providing a sea base for operations.
The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) performed as the flagship for the Kearsarge ESG and embarked both the ESG staff and most of the 26th MEU (SOC) Command Element. This “central nervous system” served as the primary means for command and control of the various Navy ships and 26th MEU (SOC) units, which were often widely dispersed throughout the region.
MSO tracking, queries and boardings were performed by all of the ships while assigned to 5th Fleet, with the exception of Kearsarge.
ESG ships performed these missions in many locations throughout the region including the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Often, ships of the ESG were on station performing these missions in several different bodies of water simultaneously.
While on station in the North Persian Gulf May 20, the frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) intercepted more than 4,200 pounds of hashish during a flag verification boarding in international waters. The intercepted vessel and the hashish were turned over to regional authorities by Kauffman following the seizure.
Regional engagement with the Armed Forces of local nations was a major goal for the ESG, and was accomplished on numerous occasions. Naval and Marine exercises were conducted with 10 different nations. Those operations varied from naval division tactics, and visit, board, search and seizure training to Marine training with regional host nations. Several countries conducted naval training with ESG shipping while the Marines were ashore training with their armed forces. On several other occasions, ESG and Marine units trained with multiple countries simultaneously.
The final exercise was conducted Aug. 13-25 with Jordan. More than 1,000 Marines of the 26th MEU were put ashore from Kearsarge, the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) and the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce (LPD 15). Kearsarge and Ashland entered port in Aqaba that day and remained on station to support the exercise while in port. The ships got underway as a pre-planned security measure when a Jordanian warehouse in the port was struck by a terrorist rocket that killed one Jordanian soldier and injured another.
Once underway, the ships remained on station to continue their support of the exercise.
“The professionalism and courage of all the Sailors and Marines in the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group and the support provided by the government of Jordan enabled us to expand our level of training with the Jordanian Navy and complete the exercise as scheduled,” said Barfield.
During their time in the region, the ESG also assisted numerous mariners and civilians in danger on the sea. Of particular note, USS Normandy participated in a large operation to rescue 89 Somalis from their capsizing vessel in the Gulf of Aden April 29. The Somalis were given medical attention and were returned to the port from which they sailed. Other ships of the ESG also provided towing or supplies to malfunctioning vessels to assist their safe return to port.
The most conventional mission the ESG performed was to provide a sea base for the 26th MEU (SOC) to facilitate their operations ashore. This sea base provided command and control as well as logistics support to the Marines operating with the host nations. The ESG sea based for major training missions in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, and a single ESG ship provided sea base support for smaller operations in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti.
As it departed, the Kearsarge ESG will left one of its ships behind. The guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) is scheduled to remain on station assigned to 5th Fleet for approximately another 12 months as part of the Navy’s Sea Swap program. The ship has been reassigned to another 5th Fleet task force, and its crew is scheduled to turn over the ship to another crew being flown in from Norfolk. The current crew will return to Norfolk in late September after the sea swap is completed.
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