More than 4,500 sailors and Marines with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed Norfolk on Monday for a deployment that will likely include visits to Europe and the Middle East.
The ARG is led by Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and includes Norfolk-based San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24) and Mayport, Fla.,-based Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), according to the Navy.
Along with elements of the 22nd MEU from Camp Lejeune, N.C., Fleet Surgical Teams 2 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, and Naval Beach Group 2 are also embarked, according to the Navy.
The Kearsarge ARG departs after spending much of the year training, including taking part in the first ARG Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) on the East Coast. The SWATT exercise, conducted during summer, was led by warfare tactics instructors (WTIs) from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC). A SWATT is designed to help the ARG elements synchronize their warfighting capabilities before starting integrated training with the MEU.
“The placement of SWATT before the ship’s last two major work-ups was great for the crew,” Capt. Jason Rimmer, Kearsarge’s executive officer, said in the Navy statement at the time of the exercise. “It gave us a chance to dust off the rust, and plan, brief, execute and debrief the advanced tactical training events during the exercise. We’ve done a lot of training during the SWATT and it has all been worth it.”
In October, the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU completed their composite training unit exercise. However, in September shortly before taking part in the final exercise before deployment, Kearsarge and Arlington were prepositioned off the North Carolina coast to provide disaster relief, if requested, after Hurricane Florence made landfall. Both ships remained outside of the storm’s path, following in its wake to be able to deliver supplies and personnel after it passed.
For Kearsarge, this was the second Atlantic Coast hurricane season in a row the ship was sent out on a relief mission. In 2017, Kearsarge ultimately spent two months providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria caused severe damage to the island.