The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are scheduled to return to Naval Station San Diego, Calif. on Wednesday after a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation that included airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq, the Navy announced Monday.
The nearly 4,500 sailors and Marines also participated in Exercise Cougar Voyage 14 with British and Kuwaiti forces, Exercise Red Reef 15 with Saudi Arabian forces and Marine sustainment exercises in Kuwait and Djibouti.
The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) suffered a loss during the deployment, when a Marine was lost at sea after an incident with a MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. The aircraft lost power during takeoff, and two crewmen bailed from the back of the Osprey as it fell toward the water. The pilot was able to regain control of the aircraft and safely land on the Makin Island, and one crewman was safely recovered from the water, but Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, was eventually declared lost at sea after a search by Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard assets failed to find him.
“We’ve had a very intense deployment that required us to execute multiple mission sets simultaneously for long periods of time. The superb professionalism and work ethic of all members of the ARG/MEU team ensured we met and exceeded the mark every time,” Capt. Steve McKone, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5, said in a Navy statement. “I know these sailors and Marines are excited to be home.”
The Makin Island ARG, led by PHIBRON 5, consists of Makin Island, dock landing ship Comstock (LSD-45), amphibious transport dock ship San Diego (LPD-22), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 (HSC-23) Detachment 2 and more. The deployment was the first for San Diego and the second for Makin Island.
The 11th MEU included Marines from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Combat Logistics Battalion 11 and more.
“The sailors and Marines on this ship performed exceptionally well during this deployment,” Makin Island Commanding Officer Capt. Jon Rodgers said in the Navy statement.
“This deployment marked the first for more than 65 percent of the crew. The teamwork was exceptional.”