US Navy, July 20, 2015 - MAYPORT, Fla. by Lt.j.g. Lily Hinz - More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines from the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed a seven-month deployment July 15-20, returning to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. and Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Deployed since Dec. 11, 2014, the Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU supported theater security cooperation and provided a forward naval presence by providing crisis response, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and combat capabilities in the U.S. 6th and 5th fleet areas of operation.
The Iwo ARG/24 MEU team played a crucial role in Yemen evacuation and contingency operations, participated in multiple bilateral and multi-lateral training exercises and conducted strategic transits of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.
The 24th MEU conducted sustainment training in Kuwait and Djibouti as well as bilateral and multi-lateral exercises in Jordan and Kuwait.
"The Sailors and Marines of the IWOARG and the 24th MEU did an outstanding job during this deployment," said Navy Capt. Michael McMillan, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8. "This ARG/MEU team was ready to plan and execute complex tasking in very dynamic environments, which was made possible by the hard work and dedication of each Sailor and Marine.”
The Iwo Jima ARG, led by PHIBRON 8, consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), the 24th MEU, PHIBRON 8 staff, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 (HSC 28) Detachment 5, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, and detachments from Assault Craft Units 2 and 4, Naval Beach Group 2 and Beach Master Unit 2.
The 24th MEU is comprised of the 24th MEU Command Element; the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced); the Ground Combat Element, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines; and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 24.
"I am very proud of our Sailors and Marines aboard USS Iwo Jima,” said USS Iwo Jima’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Dana Gordon. "They have worked extremely hard over the last seven plus months completing various missions and exercises, while receiving recognition and accolades from senior leadership in every theater we’ve been in. Many of the Sailors and Marines have also completed numerous personal and professional goals that they set for themselves, earning warfare qualifications as well as promotions. The spirit and “can do” attitude of each of them is absolutely amazing. As their CO, I could not have asked for more. They performed their jobs flawlessly and delivered each and every time something was asked of them.”
During the deployment, the ARG transited nearly 135,000 combined nautical miles and logged nearly 5,000 flight hours. Amphibious craft completed more than 4,000 passenger transfers and moved more than 350,000 pounds of cargo and mail to and from ARG shipping.
"It was an honor to deploy with such a professional group of Sailors and Marines,” said Lt. Cmdr. Cristobal Yera, HSC-28's officer-in-charge. "We accomplished a lot on this deployment and I definitely think we were an important player in the areas we operated.”
The Iwo Jima ARG conducted port visits in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Montenegro, Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Jordan. The visits provided an opportunity for the U.S. military forces to strengthen ties with the host nations and foster relationships.
The Essex ARG and 15th MEU relieved the Iwo Jima ARG in the 5th Fleet area of operations in July.