USS MAKIN ISLAND, Gulf of Aden - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were relieved of their duties in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) by the Iwo Jima ARG and the 24th MEU, May 5.
The Makin Island ARG deployed Nov. 14, 2011 and conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements, and multiple bilateral military exercises with regional partners within the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR.
"I could not be more pleased with the hard work and dedication from every Sailor and Marine," said U.S. Navy Capt. Donald R. Cuddington, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Five. "Each individual's outstanding professionalism and dedication to their training during our pre-deployment phase and through this deployment contributed greatly and was the key to the overall success of the Makin Island ARG and 11th MEU team."
Following the turnover, Makin Island ARG will depart the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR and return to their homeport of San Diego.
"As I look back, every ship had some challenges either before or during this deployment; however, each ship met every challenge or every mission with great commitment and determination to succeed," said Cuddington. "I would say the key to our success was, that the blue-green team always focused on the mission first. It was never a blue mission or a green mission. It was our mission."
The Makin Island ARG is comprised of PHIBRON Five, with detachments from Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1 and ACU 5.
The ships that make up the Makin Island ARG are San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Makin Island, amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).
The 11th MEU major subordinate elements consist of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (VMM) 268 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 11.
"The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit has completed every task and exceeded expectations in supporting both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Navy Forces Central Command as a forward deployed Marine air-ground task force," said Col. Michael Hudson, 11th MEU's commanding officer. "The Marines and Sailors have continuously demonstrated the flexibility and adaptability of the Navy and Marine Corps team as they hit every pitch. This journey started over a year ago, during pre-deployment training and we leave here now proud of what we have accomplished.
"As we begin our voyage home to our friends and families in Southern California, we know that the 24th MEU, who is relieving us, is well led, trained and ready to take the next watch as America's forward deployed force," Hudson added.
The Iwo Jima ARG includes PHIBRON Eight, with detachments from TACRON 21, FST 4, HSC 22, BMU 2, ACU 2 and ACU 4. ARG ships include Norfolk-based amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
This is the maiden deployment for USS New York (LPD 21), built with seven-and-a-half tons of steel from the World Trade Center, symbolizing sacrifice while having the watch being forward deployed.
"We've been working hard to prepare for our new duties in our new theatre, as we recently completed exercise African Lion off the coast of Morocco shortly after departing for deployment, and we are looking forward to getting work done in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR," said U.S. Navy Capt. Mark H. Scovill, commodore, PHIBRON Eight.
Embarked with the Iwo Jima ARG is the 24th MEU, a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, comprised of major subordinate elements: Battalion Landing Team 1/2, VMM-261 (Reinforced) and CLB-24.
"The 24th MEU is manned, trained, equipped and ready to serve as U.S. 5th Fleet's forward deployed crisis response force," said Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer, 24th MEU. "Teamed with our great Navy partners aboard the amphibious ships of PHIBRON Eight, we make a truly flexible, adaptable, decisive, and when required, lethal Navy and Marine Corps expeditionary force. We stand ready to take over for 11th MEU/PHIBRON Five and continue the superior work they have done across the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR. We wish them fair winds and following seas as they begin their transit home."
The Iwo Jima and embarked 24th MEU will provide support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR.