Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Mark Hernandez signals an MV- 22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium
Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, to take off from the flight deck of the amphibious
assault ship USS Kearsarge in the Gulf of Aden Dec. 27.
“While that CH- 53 detachment was up in Pakistan
doing humanitarian assistance, Ponce was off the coast
of Pakistan in an alert posture to provide support to
that 53 detachment,” Pagano said. “Carter Hall was
doing counterpiracy and maritime security operations
in the Gulf of Aden. Kearsarge was acting as a sea base
for special operations forces off of East Africa. You can
see the bang for the buck that the nation gets for that
ARG/MEU, a relatively small force dispersed and hav-
ing impact and effects across a wide area.”
The disaggregation allowed the ARG/MEU to partici-
pate in five theater security cooperation exercises with
partner nations. One, the Jordan Operational Deployment
Program, involved a company of Marines helping the
Jordanian military prepare for a deployment into Af-
ghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Another involved working with the Kenyan Army, as
well as engaging in humanitarian assistance opportunities, such as rebuilding a girls’ school in the country. The
exercise with Kenya marked the first time an ARG/MEU
engaged with East Africa since U.S. Africa Command was
stood up in October 2008, Desens said.
Exercise Iron Magic was a live-fire amphibious exer-
cise with the Emirati armed forces in the Persian Gulf
involving Carter Hall, Ponce and their embarked
Marines. Pagano’s deputy and part of the ARG staff ran
the exercise, while Pagano and Desens remained on
Kearsarge off of East Africa and in the Gulf of Aden.