Amphibious Squadron EIGHT is one of three tactical amphibious squadrons in the Naval Surface Force, US Atlantic Fleet. Currently, the squadron commands the BATAAN Amphibious Ready Group which consists of USS BATAAN (LHD 5), USS MESA VERDE (LPD 19), USS CARTER HALL (LSD 50) and the following Naval Support Element detachments; Fleet Surgical Team Six, Tactical Air Control Squadron Two One, and Naval Beach Group Two Detachment Bravo. Previously, the squadron commanded the IWO JIMA Amphibious Ready Group which consists of USS IWO JIMA (LHA 7), USS NEW YORK (LPD 21), USS FORT MCHENRY (LSD 43) and the following Naval Support Element detachments; Fleet Surgical Team Eight, Tactical Air Control Squadron Twenty Two and Naval Beach Group Two Detachment Bravo.
A tactical amphibious squadron's organization is unique. Ships are assigned periodically to one of the tactical squadrons for specific operations or for temporary administrative purposes. The squadron staff functions for the commander in the operational readiness of each ship. The amphibious squadron commander with his staff is charged with responsibilities for planning and executing amphibious operations and deployments with a reinforced Marine Battalion. The amphibious squadron staff is capable of planning and executing amphibious assaults at the Marine Expeditionary Unit level with augmenting detachments from a Tactical Air Control Squadron, Naval Beach Group, Special Warfare Group, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and Fleet Surgical Team. Additionally it serves as Naval Forces Commander in various Joint Task Force Operations. and Fleet Surgical Team. Additionally it serves as Naval Forces Commander in various Joint Task Force Operations. Amphibious Ready Groups from the Naval Surface Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet normally deploy to the Mediterranean. However, other regions in the Atlantic Fleet area of responsibility are often included. The Amphibious Ready Group's capabilities range from providing medical supplies, personnel and food for evacuation in the event of natural disaster, to landing combat ready Marines ashore.
Formed in February 1955, Amphibious Squadron EIGHT, then known as TRANSPHIBRON EIGHT, operated in such diverse regions as the Arctic Ocean, Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, and the Middle East. In 1959, the name was officially changed to Amphibious Squadron EIGHT. Squadron tasks have varied from fleet exercises and training to resupplying the Early Warning Radar Network (DEWLINE); evacuating the UN Truce team from Gaza Strip; landing Marines to reinforce the Guantanamo garrison in 1962; evacuation of non-combatants from the island of Cyprus in 1974 and from war-torn Beirut, Lebanon in June 1976; evacuation of refugees from Cuba; experimental AV-8A Harrier operations in the Mediterranean; command of Amphibious Forces Lebanon, Amphibious Forces SIXTH Fleet and the United States contingent of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, Lebanon in 1983; humanitarian relief efforts for over 250,000 Kurdish refugees as part of Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq; Search and rescue platform in the Adriatic Sea for Operation Provide Promise; Operation Restore Hope in Somalia; the rescue of downed Air Force pilot Capt. Scott O'Grady in 1995; evacuating American Embassy personnel, U.S. citizens and third country nationals from albania during Operation silver wake in 1997; and in 1998 participating in a security mission in Albania and conducting Black Sea operations and Partnership for Peace exercises in Albania, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania and the Ukraine.
The squadron commanded the Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Groups 1-85, 1-87, 1-88, 2-89, 1-91, 2-92, 2-95, 3-98 and Joint Task Force 2-93, 3-95, 1-97.
MARG 2-95 - [Marine Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 95-2] USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Nashville (LPD-13), and USS Pensacola (LSD-38) departed from homeportat Norfolk, VA on 22 March 1995, bound for the Mediterranean Sea as a member of Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 2-95 and the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group. After an extensive five month training period, the Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked at Onslow Bay, North Carolina. Fully capable and prepared for a myriad of possible missions, the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), comprised of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Nashville (LPD 13), and USS Pensacola (LSD 38), departed Onlsow Bay on March 23. After the two week transit, the three ship ARG relieved the Nassau ARG as Task Force Six One. Highlights of the deployment include the visit of the Kearsarge to Malta on 31 July 1995. The MEU conducted its last exercise of the deployment, a TRAP exercise (TRAPEX), near Aviano, Italy. The scenario called for MEU forces to recover four downed allied pilots from a hostile environment. The TRAPEX provided the Marines and Sailors an opportunity to execute some of the vital skills necessary for a force on watch in the Adriatic. The exercise went very smoothly and MEU personnel, once again, demonstrated the value of the intense training involved in the MEU (SOC) Program. The three-ship ARG said farewell to the Adriatic Sea on August 20. Before beginning their transit west, they took in some last liberty ports. Nashville stopped in Zakinthos, Greece, and Ibiza, Spain. Pensacola visited Naples, Italy, and Valencia, Spain. Kearsarge enjoyed Corfu, Greece, and Barcelona, Spain. The ARG rejoined in Rota, Spain, on 04 September 1995. The Marine Amphibious Ready Group was employed across a wide variety of naval activities during the deployment, including the rescue of U.S. Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady. On 08 June 1995, Marine rescue and attack helicopters operating from USS Kearsarge successfully completed the combat search and rescue mission, recovering O'Grady after he had spent six days behind enemy lines. On 09 September 1995 the Kearsarge ARG rendezvoused with the Wasp ARG to conduct a turnover. Later that afternoon, Kearsarge ARG Commodore Jerry Schill passed the "Commander, Task Force Six One" baton to Wasp ARG Commodore Skip Buchanan and Amphibious Squadron Four. On 20 September 1995 the Kearsarge ARG arrived in Onslow Bay, North Carolina, where the 24th MEU (SOC) debarked. The ships of the Kearsarge ARG returned to Norfolk Naval Station and Little Creek Amphibious Base on 22 September 1995.
Saipan (LHA 2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) -- More than 13,000 Sailors and Marines of the USS Enterprise Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) and USS Saipan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), including the embarked amphibious squadron staff (COMPHIBRON 8), returned to their east coast home ports and bases 19-21 December 1996. USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), USS Saipan (LHA 2) and USS Austin (LPD 4) were on a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf which began 28 June 1996. The Enterprise CVBG and the Saipan ARG were relieved by USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) CVBG and USS Nassau (LHA-4) ARG, which departed for their six month deployment 25 November 1996.
In late 1998 the Saipan (LHA-2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), consisting of command ship USS Saipan (LHA-2), USS Austin (LPD-4) and USS Tortuga (LSD-46), worked closely with the 22nd MEU in conducting several amphibious exercises. Included in the training were deck landing qualifications for Marine Helicopter Squadrons (HMM) 162 and Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 6. Amphibious boat training was conducted by Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4. Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8 and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22 MEU) completed the first phase of integrated training in the Cherry Point operating area, off the coast of North Carolina.
The ships and squadrons of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Battle Group began a scheduled six-month deployment 18 February 2000. About 15,000 Sailors and Marines deployed to relieve the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) Battle Group. The battle group had spent months preparing for this deployment, participating in a series of increasingly demanding exercises and operations. In June 1999 the USS Wasp (LHD 1) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) completed Type Commander's Amphibious Training (TCAT), comprehensive amphibious training exercise, off the coast of North Carolina. The training culminated in Joint Task Force Exercise 00-1 held in December 1999. The USS Wasp (LHA 1) Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) was composed of Wasp, USS Trenton (LPD 14), and USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). In February 2000, the WASP Amphibious Ready Group deployed to the Mediterranean with 24 Marine expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked. With their assigned naval forces of nearly 4,000 sailors and Marines, Amphibious Squadron Eight and 24 MEU(SOC) remain a ready amphibious arm of Commander, SIXTH Fleet. In June 2000 the USS Wasp Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) was on a routine deployment to the Mediterranean that included Exercise Dynamic Mix 2000 conducted off the coast of Kyparissia Bay, Greece. Amphibious Squadron 4 and the 26th MEU(SOC) relieved COMPHIBRON 8 and 24th MEU(SOC) embarked on the Norfolk-based USS WASP (LHD 1) ARG. On 08 August 2000 the sailors and marines of Amphibious Squadron EIGHT returned home from their deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. The squadron moved to Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, while awaiting their next deployment.
MARG 1-02 - [Marine Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 1-02] The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship Bataan, the amphibious transport dock Shreveport and the dock landing ship Whidbey Island departed their homeports for a scheduled six-month deployment in late September 2001. The three-ship amphibious assault group is part of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group. Bataan, the flag ship for the three-ship amphibious ready group (ARG), along with Shreveport and Whidbey Island departed Norfolk for what was scheduled to be a routine deployment. The Bataan ARG had recently completed an extensive work-up cycle during which sailors assigned to Bataan, Shreveport and Whidbey Island and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (Special Operation Capable) trained and prepared to conduct amphibious and special operations. The last phase of their eight-month training cycle successfully concluded with a Joint Task Force Exercise involving numerous ships including the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group.
With their assigned naval forces of nearly 4,000 sailors and Marines, Amphibious Squadron Eight and 26 MEU(SOC) remain a ready amphibious arm of Commander, SIXTH Fleet. The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship Bataan finished a successful on load of Marines, vehicles and cargo, and headed off on their six-month deployment on schedule. The more than 2,000 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)(MEU SOC), from Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., embarked on Bataan at Onslow Bay, NC. The on load was coordinated by a host of key players from the Bataan and the 26th MEU (SOC). It took roughly 13 hours.