ESG-1 Departs 5th Fleet, Begins Voyage Home
Story Number: NNS060113-05
By Lt. Ron Flanders Expeditionary Strike Group 1 Public Affairs
ABOARD USS TARAWA, At sea in the Indian Ocean (NNS) -- Four thousand Sailors and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1 entered the 7th Fleet area of operations Jan. 12 en route to their homeport of San Diego after completing their assigned mission in the 5th Fleet region.
The ESG-1 flagship, USS Tarawa (LHA 1), the amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD 7), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and the embarked Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit spent more than four months in-theatre.
“ESG-1 was simply impressive,” said Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, Commander U.S. 5th Fleet. “I could not have asked for better trained or more professional Sailors or Marines than those who comprise the strike group.”
Walsh and his deputy commander, Rear Adm. John Miller, both praised ESG-1 for the ability to rapidly adapt to world events.
“They had a very positive attitude,” said Miller. “We asked them to be flexible, which is inherently difficult for people to do, but everything we’ve asked ESG-1 to do, they’ve done, and they’ve done it in a very professional manner.”
Miller temporarily replaced ESG-1’s commander, Rear Adm. Michael LeFever, Jan. 6. LeFever and a portion of the ESG-1 staff have been in Pakistan since October 2005 coordinating the earthquake relief operations.
Miller praised ESG-1 for its stellar performance during Exercise Bright Star, the largest multinational exercise in the Central Command area of responsibility in September, and for performing distributed operations the following three months over a waterspace equal in area to the continental United States.
ESG-1 rapidly responded in October to provide humanitarian relief to Pakistan after a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 75,000 in the northern part of that country. While LeFever and members of the ESG-1 staff surged to Islamabad, to provide command and control for the U.S. military relief operation, Pearl Harbor and Cleveland ferried several hundred tons of heavy equipment, food, tents and other relief supplies to Karachi to assist the Pakistani government.
During the deployment, each of ESG-1’s six ships performed maritime security operations (MSO) in 5th Fleet. In the North Persian Gulf, the guided missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65) helped train the Iraqi navy and provided security for two key pieces of Iraqi infrastructure, the Al Basrah Oil Terminal and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal.
The guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61) performed Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) missions in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa, as well as in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, while Tarawa, Pearl Harbor and Cleveland each performed MSO missions throughout the region.
“ESG-1 played an integral role in helping to maintain security and stability in the 5th Fleet area of operations,” said Walsh. “Their flexibility allowed us to mix and match forces between three maritime task forces both inside and outside the Arabian Gulf.”
ESG-1 Sailors and Marines were ready to return to their families, but positively reflected on a successful mission.
“I feel very proud with what our Navy/Marine Corps team accomplished here,” said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Jimmel Hargrove of Cleveland. “We were actively involved in helping people, which makes you feel great.”
“We’ve done a good job on completing our mission, and we’re ready to go home,” said Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Daniel Beauchamp of the Tarawa. “We collected a lot of data that we passed on to the next strike group that will take over for us.”
ESG-1 passed the baton to ESG-8, an East coast-based strike group centered aboard USS Nassau (LHA 4). Nassau will be joined by Gonzalez, which as part of the Sea Swap initiative will remain in theatre after swapping out its crew later this month.
With their 5th Fleet mission behind them, ESG-1 is now focused on a safe transit home, continued integrated training to remain sharp in the event of a contingency, and spreading goodwill during the strike group’s remaining port visits, its commander said.
“These Sailors and Marines are headed home to a hero’s welcome,” said Miller. “But being a hero brings special expectations. These young men and women have been great ambassadors for the United States in each port visit this deployment, and I know that they understand the additional obligations this hard-earned status requires of them. I am confident ESG-1 will distinguish itself in 7th Fleet just as it has throughout this deployment.”
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