Amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) returned to Norfolk Thursday morning, after completing a seven-month deployment to Europe and the Middle East and having offloaded members of the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in North Carolina earlier this week.
Earlier this month, the Wasp-class big-deck, flagship of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), was finishing operations with U.S. 6th Fleet. During the deployment, which started a week before Christmas, Kearsarge was joined by 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).
Just three days after departing Norfolk, Kearsarge answered an emergency call for medical help aboard a United Kingdom-flagged merchant ship MV Eddystone. A U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from Sea Combat Squadron 26 transported a British Merchant Navy sailor back to Kearsarge. He received treatment on board before the crew transferred him to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Bermuda, according to the Navy.
During the deployment, members of the Kearsarge ARG participated in a variety of patrols and exercises, including the recently completed multinational maritime-focused Baltic Sea defense exercise called Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2019.
“No nation can confront today’s challenges alone,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, the commodore of the Kearsarge ARG, in a statement released last week. “Participation in multinational exercises like BALTOPS enhances our professional relationships and improves overall coordination with allies and partner militaries during times of crisis.”
Kearsarge spent most of the deployment in U.S. Central Command. In January, the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU transited the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, where they joined the Essex ARG with the embarked 13th MEU. The ARG departed in mid-June. The Essex ARG was already in the region, on station in the North Arabian Sea, just outside the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
The Kearsarge ARG and Essex ARG joined USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and the embarked Carrier Air Wing 9 in U.S. Central Command. At the time, the Stennis Carrier Strike Group was striking targets in Syria and Afghanistan. With the arrival of the Kearsarge ARG, the U.S. Navy had about a dozen ship in the region, the largest collection of U.S. naval power in the Middle East in years.