About 4,500 sailors and Marines left San Diego, Calif., today for a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific and Central Command regions with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Dock landing ship USS Harper’s Ferry (LSD-49) and amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) departed from San Diego Naval Base in the morning, and amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) left its berth at midday.
The amphibious force is expected to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence operations, 3rd Fleet officials said in a news release.
“The Boxer ARG/11th MEU will provide senior U.S. military leadership and coalition partners with a flexible, tailorable force which can rapidly respond to contingencies and crises within a region,” officials said. “With ships, aircraft, troops, and logistical equipment, the ARG/MEU is a self-contained and self-sustained task force capable of conducting missions from combat operations to providing humanitarian assistance.”
Boxer is the flagship for Amphibious Squadron 5, commanded by Capt. Brad Arthur, according to the unit’s website. The ARG includes the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 5, and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
“The crew is ready to execute any mission,” Boxer’s commander, Capt. Ronald Dowdell, said in the release. I’m proud of the work by our Sailors to build the right mindset needed for success. And now the Boxer team is excited to carry our nation’s flag across the globe,”
The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 11th MEU is commanded by Col. Fridrik Fridriksson. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion 11. The 11th MEU began its deployment planning a year ago and in November kicked off the first in a series of training exercises that included several at-sea periods with the Boxer ARG.
“Our blue-green team is ready to deploy,” Fridriksson said in the news release. “We have trained, on land, in the air and at sea, to respond to events across the range of military operations and we will be prepared if and when we are called to respond.”
Unlike the most-recent West Coast MEU/ARG that deployed overseas – the 13th MEU that deployed with amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) – the 11th MEU’s air combat element isn’t equipped with the Marine Corps’ newest F-35B advanced, multi-mission, short takeoff and landing jet. The 11th MEU’s “Evil Eyes” squadron, however, includes a detachment from Marine Attack Squadron 214 equipped with AV-8B Harrier jump jets, which the F-35 is replacing.
The 13th MEU, which returned home Feb. 28, and Essex ARG ships, which arrived at their San Diego berths on March 1, marked the first overseas deployment from the U.S. of the F-35B that included combat strikes, which came in missions supporting forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.