By USS Kearsarge Public Affairs and 22nd MEU COMMSTRAT
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), flagship of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), arrived in Brest, France, on June 30, 2022, to complete a scheduled maintenance availability period and to strengthen relations with a key NATO ally. The strong relationship between the French and American navies goes back to the American War of Independence, and the Kearsarge is honored to be able to commemorate Independence Day with our French allies.
The maintenance period, termed a mid-deployment voyage repair (MDVR), allows the ship to complete corrective and preventative maintenance that cannot be done while at sea. This necessary work allows the ship and her crew to continue their mission in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR) area of operations.
“Kearsarge is thankful to the French Navy and the city of Brest for welcoming us,” said Capt. Tom Foster, commanding officer of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). “We are at the mid-point of our deployment and will execute much needed repairs, upkeep and re-supply while in port. We appreciate the cooperative relationships between our two countries as we work together to provide support to our NATO allies and partners, and ensure peace in the region.”
Since arriving in theater in March 2022, the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) have participated in a wide array of exercises and operations with partners and allies throughout the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) area of operations.
Kearsarge has operated primarily in northern European waters, conducting port visits in Tromsø, Norway; Tallinn, Estonia; and Stockholm, Sweden while participating in a bilateral training event in Norway, exercises Hedgehog 22 and BALTOPS 22, and NATO vigilance activity Neptune Shield 22.
Many of these exercises and activities have brought Kearsarge together with elements of the French military. The visit to Brest provides yet another opportunity to learn from and gain a deeper understanding of French culture and history. While in port in Brest, the crew will conduct Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) trips across France to the Musee D-Day Omaha, Normandy American Cemetery, Mount Saint Michel, and the Omaha Beach Memorial. ARG and MEU leaders will participate in office calls with the French Commander of Atlantic Maritime Zone, VAE Olivier Lebas and the Mayor of Brest François Cullandre On July 4th, together with French authorities and representatives from the U.S. Consulate in Rennes, USS Kearsarge will participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the American Battlefield Monuments Commissions’ Naval Monument at Brest, which honors the more than 700,000 American service members who transited the port of Brest during World War I. The original American Naval Monument was destroyed by the Nazis during their occupation of Brest and rebuilt by the United States after World War II.
“The mid-deployment voyage repair is our time to reset the force,” said Col. Paul Merida, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU. “We see the MDVR as an opportunity to get off the ship and train whenever possible, conduct vehicle, equipment and weapons maintenance, ensure that our gear and property is accounted for as well as improving administrative, medical and dental readiness. Ideally, the MDVR also offers a chance for the Marines to get some time off-shore to reflect on the history of the region while building an appreciation for the local population and French culture.”
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3); San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2, and Beach Master Unit 2.
Amphibious ready groups and larger amphibious task forces provide military commanders a wide range of flexible capabilities including maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, strike operations, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, counter-terrorism, information operations, security cooperation and counter-proliferation, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.