A Navy-Marine Corps team showcases
the value of forward presence and sea basing
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Assigned to support the MEU from
land bases were two KC-130Js from
Marine Aerial Refueler/Transport
Squadron 252, which operated
variously from Djibouti, Kuwait
The ARG/MEU deployed a
month early in response to the
flooding that devastated parts of
Pakistan in mid-2010, said Pagano,
who with Desens briefed Navy
League officials on the deployment
June 29 at the Pentagon.
“Over the course of that eight-and-a-half months, we
did missions from humanitarian assistance in Pakistan to
combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya, and many
missions in between, such as maritime security operations, counterpiracy patrols, some national mission tasking off East Africa [and] theater security cooperation bilateral exercises,” Pagano said.
“We did this in a largely disaggregated posture, with
the ships and the Marine units dispersed not only across
one theater but, many times over the course of the
deployment, dispersed across multiple theaters simulta-
neously,” he said. “This deployment, once again, validat-
ed the utility of the sea base. The ships of the ARG per-
formed as a sea base not just for the [MEU] but, various
times across the deployment, as a sea base for other
services: special operations, even a U.S. Air Force [com-
bat search and rescue] helicopter detachment.”
Some of the 26th MEU’s helicopters arrived in
Pakistan long before the main force was in theater.
Within nine days of the deployment order, the four CH-
53Es were flown to theater onboard Air Force transport
aircraft to augment the helicopters of the 15th MEU
deployed with the USS Peleliu ARG. In 57 days of flood
relief in Pakistan, the CH-53Es lifted more than 3 mil-
lion pounds of food, using a small airstrip in the central
part of the country, where the average daily high temper-
ature was 128 degrees Fahrenheit.
A widely dispersed Navy-Marine Corps amphibious group wages
war and peace across three areas of operations.
■ The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine
Expeditionary Unit engage the enemy and foster theater security.
■ MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft shines in operations.
■ STOVL aircraft double the nation’s strike carrier force.
Deployments of Navy Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) with embarked Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) have been routine for decades. The ARG/MEUs train for a wide spectrum of amphibious warfare and other roles, but one
recent deployment showcased nearly the full spectrum
of its capabilities and provided flexible presence when
and where it was needed in a variety of hot spots.
The Kearsarge ARG, commanded by Capt. Pete
Pagano, commander of Amphibious Squadron Four,
deployed on Aug. 27, 2010, with 1,946 Sailors aboard
the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge,
the Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship USS
Ponce and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship
USS Carter Hall. Two MH-60S armed helicopters from
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 were embarked
on Kearsarge, as were Fleet Surgical Team 6, a Tactical
Air Control Squadron 21 detachment and a detachment of Naval Beach Group.
Also embarked was the 26th MEU under the command of Col. Mark Desens. The MEU included 2,892
Marines and Sailors assigned to Battalion Landing Team
(BLT) 3/8; Combat Logistics Battalion 26; Marine
Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266, an MV-22B Osprey
squadron with CH-53E, UH-1N and AH-1W helicopters
attached, as well as a detachment of AV-8B Harrier II
attack aircraft from Marine Attack Squadron 542.