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Forward Deployed ARG Returns to Sasebo at Spring Patrol Midpoint

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060315-02
Release Date: 3/15/2006 11:02:00 AM


By Journalist 3rd Class Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- The Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) returned to its forward-deployed home of Sasebo, Japan, March 14, completing bilateral training in the Republic of Philippines and Guam, while also delivering relief to mudslide victims in the Philippines’ southern Leyte Island.

During the two-month patrol, Sailors from the Forward Deployed ARG and Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise Balikatan 2006 in the Phillippines and MEU Exercise (MEUEX)/Training in an Urban Environment (TRUEX) in Guam. The scheduled training in the Republic of Philippines turned into real-world cooperation between U.S. forces and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel as they worked shoulder-to-shoulder to deliver relief supplies to victims in Southern Leyte.

Emergent relief and Balikatan 06 were conducted simultaneously as ARG ships USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) were on station in Southern Leyte, and USS Juneau (LPD 10) acted as a sea-basing platform to form a string of medical civil action projects (MEDCAPs) on the island of Jolo.

Sailors and Marines of the ARG/MEU capped the patrol by commemorating the 61st anniversary of the historic World War II Battle of Iwo Jima with a ceremony at the memorial site on Mt. Suribachi.

“The mission accomplishment over the last two months is a true testament to the training and durability of Sailors and Marines part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force (FDNF),” said Capt. Mark E. Donahue, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, task group commander of the Forward Deployed ARG. “I feel that the bonds that were made during the first part of this Spring Patrol will carry far and will play a major part in ensuring peace and stability throughout Southeast Asia into the future.”

The Forward Deployed ARG left Sasebo, Japan, Jan. 14 and arrived at Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 21 to embark Marines of the 31st MEU. The ARG offloaded the 31st MEU Jan. 24 in Guam to perform TRUEX/MEUEX and then completed the backload Feb. 10. While in Guam, members of Juneau completed two community service projects, one at a local elementary school and the other at an assisted living home for the mentally and physically disabled.

The Forward Deployed ARG and 31st MEU, along with USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), arrived in Subic Bay Feb. 17 for Balikatan 06, but were immediately called to assist in the relief efforts on Leyte, where extreme flooding led to a mudslide that virtually washed away the farming village of Guinsahugon, as well as two other villages. Meanwhile, Juneau, the secondary flagship of the Forward Deployed ARG, continued with Exercise Balikatan’s Civil Military Operations (CMO) mission in Jolo.

According to Balikatan officials, the Forward Deployed ARG joined with Joint Task Force Balikatan personnel and delivered thousands of relief supplies and recorded more than 400 flight hours during a weeklong stretch of emergency aid. Throughout the relief delivery, Sailors and Marines brought smiles to the people of Southern Leyte. In addition, Sailors brought candy and cookies, completing a community service project at a local elementary school.

In Jolo, U.S. Navy and Army doctors, dentists and veterinarians teamed with AFP medical personnel to treat more than 11,000 Filipino patients and 500 animals in seven MEDCAP projects on the island. The U.S. doctors were airlifted into the project sites each day from Juneau.

At the conclusion of Balikatan 06, Essex and Harpers Ferry traveled to Iwo Jima, Japan, for the special World War II commemoration March 8. While there, Sailors and Marines explored the historic battle site, and several reenlisted atop Mt. Suribachi.

“My sincere gratitude goes to the Sailors and Marines of the ARG/MEU, who not only gave with their hands but their hearts,” said Donahue. “These dedicated service members are truly caring people who not only displayed their commitment to their nation, but to humanity in general. I give a big 'Bravo Zulu' to all.”

The Forward Deployed ARG is part of Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, which is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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