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US Navy

Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU Reach Milestone, 60 days COVID-Free

US Navy

29 April 2021
From Petty Officer 2nd Class Brenton Poyser

ATLANTIC OCEAN -- The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (IWOARG) and the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) reached the milestone of 60 days underway with no COVID-19 cases, April 20.

"The IWOARG is at maximum readiness when it comes to combating COVID-19," said U.S. Navy Capt. Darren Nelson, commodore Amphibious Squadron Four. "Our operational readiness allows us to maintain regional stability and maritime security during a time of international crisis."

The combined IWOARG and 24th MEU of roughly 4,300 Sailors and Marines dispersed among three warships and several locations ashore across the Sixth Fleet area of operations have had no cases of COVID-19 in the past two months. Many of the ARG/MEU personnel on ground across Europe are Marines conducting training.

"Our Marines' and Sailors' adherence to the established COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures demonstrates the strength and impact of a unified effort," said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Eric D. Cloutier, commanding officer, 24th MEU. "As we continue to operate as a forward deployed naval task force, having a healthy force allows us to maintain our high state of readiness and focus on the tasks at hand."

After 30 days underway with zero COVID-19 cases the entire ARG/MEU relaxed some COVID mitigations, including mandatory mask wearing. Gyms and barbershops have been re-opened and distancing restrictions during meal hours have been reduced.

Prior to embarkation on the warships every Sailor and Marine participated in a mandatory restriction-of-movement (ROM) for 14 days. Additionally over 90% of the ARG/MEU voluntarily opted to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We found that Sailors and Marines were more open to being vaccinated after exhaustively educating them on the benefits and safety of the vaccine," said Capt. William Wallace, officer in charge of Fleet Surgical Team Six. "If a case of COVID were to occur within the units we will return to the strict COVID mitigations we had in place which has proven to work."
The combined IWOARG and 24th MEU have roughly 4,300 Sailors and Marines. The ARG-MEU is deployed to SIXTHFLT in support of regional NATO Allies and partners as well as U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

The IWOARG consists of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Carter Hall (LSD 50), and the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17). Embarked detachments for the Iwo Jima ARG include Amphibious Squadron Four, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) Six, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Naval Beach Group (NBG) Two, Beach Master Unit (BMU) Two, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) Two and Four, and Sailors from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) Two.

The 24th MEU mission is to provide the United States with a forward-deployed, amphibious force-in-readiness capable of executing missions across the full spectrum of combat and military operations other than war, and consists of four basic elements, the Command Element, Ground Combat Element, Air Combat Element and the Logistics Combat Element. The unit consists of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/8, a logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 24, and an aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron (VMM) 162 Reinforced.

U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

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