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By Kearsarge ARG Public Affairs and 22nd MEU COMMSTRAT
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), returned to the Baltic Sea, August 2, to strengthen interoperability with key NATO allies and partners.
Elements of the ARG-MEU include flagship 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), along with accompanying Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51).
While in the Baltic Sea, approximately 4,000 Sailors and Marines of the combined ARG-MEU team will train and operate alongside allied and partner nations to preserve maritime security and stability in the region. Operating alongside allies and partners in the Baltic Sea again demonstrates the U.S.’ commitment to the region and to improving capability and capacity across like-minded nations.
"Our experience in the Baltics earlier in the year was extremely positive and we're looking to build upon the relationships that we established as well as establish some new ones," said Col. Paul Merida, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU. "We are ready to train and operate alongside our allies and partners and, of course, we are always ready to respond to crisis if required."
This marks a return to the Baltic Sea for elements of the ARG-MEU team, including Gunston Hall and Kearsarge, as both ships participated in the Estonian-led exercise Siil 22 in May and the annual joint, multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, in June. Arlington will be operating in the Baltic for the first time, re-aggregated with the Kearsarge ARG-MEU team following operations in the Mediterranean Sea since April 2022.
Prior to returning to the Baltic Sea, the ships of the ARG concluded their mid-deployment voyage repair (MDVR) and maintenance periods in Brest, France; Rijeka, Croatia; and Copenhagen and Kalundborg, Denmark. Maintenance availability periods, termed MDVRs, allow U.S. Navy ships to accomplish necessary and preventative repairs to continue their missions in the region while simultaneously strengthening relationships with host nations.
“Following a successful mid-deployment voyage repair (MDVR), the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU remains committed to our allies and partners,” said Capt. Aaron Kelley, commander of the Kearsarge ARG and Amphibious Squadron SIX. “As our ships frequently operate in the region, the ARG-MEU team remains ready and returns to strengthen relationships with new and familiar Baltic allies and partners while ensuring maritime security throughout the region.”
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.
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of USS Kearsarge; the San-Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall. 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.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our 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.