The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) spent Christmas in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, after rescuing a British merchant sailor shortly after leaving homeport.
More than 4,500 sailors and Marines in the Kearsarge ARG/22nd MEU departed Norfolk on December 17 for a routine deployment and crossed over to 6th Fleet on Christmas. The 6th Fleet area of operations covers half the Atlantic, from the Arctic to Antarctica, along with the Mediterranean, all of Europe, Russia, and Africa.
“The Kearsarge ARG is prepared to conduct a variety of missions, including maritime security operations, crisis response, and theater security cooperation,” Capt. Daniel Blackburn, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 6, said in a statement. “This deployment will deepen operational relationships with other services, agencies, allies and partners who operate with the Navy to support our shared interests.”
The ARG improved international relations before even entering the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations by providing a medical evacuation for a British Merchant Navy sailor from the United Kingdom-flagged MV Eddystone.
Just three days after leaving Norfolk, Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) sent an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from Sea Combat Squadron 26 to transport the British sailor from Eddystone back to Kearsarge, where he was treated until he could be transferred to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Bermuda, according to the Navy.
“As sailors, we inherently understand the need to respond to the calls of distressed mariners at sea, so when we received a distress call this afternoon stating a civilian mariner with a serious medical condition required immediate care, Kearsarge quickly responded,” Navy Capt. Jason Rimmer, the commanding officer of Kearsarge, said in a statement.
“Increasing sea state in the western Atlantic and overwhelming distances between the mariner’s ship and the nearest hospital made it apparent that Kearsarge would need to medevac the patient to our ship so that our expert medical staff could provide prompt medical care.”
At times, the Royal Navy uses Eddystone to transport military equipment. All crew members are Royal Navy Sponsored Reservists, according to the ship’s owner, U.K.-based Foreland Shipping Ltd.
Joining Kearsarge in the ARG are amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD-24), dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), Fleet Surgical Teams (FST) 2 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of PHIBRON 6.
“The 22nd MEU is a highly capable and responsive sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force, forward deployed to provide a credible military presence in support our nation’s defense,” Col. Michael Perez, the 22 MEU commanding officer, said in a statement.
“Teaming with the Kearsarge ARG, we look forward to training with allied and partner military forces while also providing versatile, amphibious response options to our combatant commanders as we face myriad global challenges. Though we are deployed during the holidays, the Marines and sailors of this team have trained hard for this opportunity to serve and remain focused on our mission.”