The three-ship Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group is now in the Mediterranean Sea after operating for 109 days in the Middle East supporting the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Navy officials told USNI News on Monday.
USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and USS San Antonio (LPD-17) and the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked completed a transit of the Suez Canal on Monday.
The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 24th MEU is made up of the Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/8, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 24 and the Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron (VMM) 162 Reinforced, as well as a Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment.
The Iwo Jima ARG deployed from the West Coast in March and arrived in the Middle East in early June. Marines and sailors attached to the 24th MEU were dispatched from the three ships to shore in Kuwait and were flown via C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Around 2,000 Marines were sent to Afghanistan to assist with the non-combatant evacuation operation to evacuate those fleeing the country.
Following the evacuation, the ARG departed the Persian Gulf in late August before sailing up the Red Sea.
The Essex ARG and the 11th MEU entered the Persian Gulf last week after deploying from California in August. Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD-27), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit had entered the North Arabian Sea and U.S. Central Command from the Indian Ocean on Sept. 12.
The swapping of the ARGs in the region comes as the Reagan Carrier Strike Group left the Middle East last week after almost three months in the region on Sept. 16. The carrier supported the withdrawal of Afghanistan.
The California-based Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group was operating earlier this week in the Philippine Sea.