PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Approximately 4,500 Sailors and Marines with Amphibious Squadron Five (PHIBRON 5) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) returned to the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations Feb. 10 following operations in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet during their Western-Pacific deployment.
The squadron departed their homeport of San Diego July 25, 2014, and has conducted a relocation of National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration researchers from a tropical storm near Hawaii; conducted the 2014 Malaysia-U.S. amphibious exercise; executed air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq; conducted non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) flights over Iraq and Syria; worked with British and Kuwaiti forces in Exercise Cougar Voyage 14; conducted Exercise Red Reef 15 with Saudi Arabian forces and performed Marine sustainment exercises in Kuwait and Djibouti.
"We've had long underway periods filled with a wide range of contingencies that required rapid planning and response and we have answered the call at every step," said 11th MEU Commanding Officer Col. Matthew Trollinger. "Our mission set may continue to vary as we transition back to where we came from, but our mind set needs to remain the same - diligent, focused, and ready to respond at a moment's notice."
The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) and the embarked MEU elements have also visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Jordan, collectively, for port visits. The visits provide an opportunity for our nation's military forces to strengthen ties with the host nations and foster relationships.
"We've had a very intense deployment that required us to execute multiple mission sets simultaneously for long periods of time. The superb professionalism and work ethic of all members of the ARG/MEU team ensured we met and exceeded the mark every time," said Capt. Steve McKone, commander, PHIBRON 5. "We continue to be ready to respond to any crisis or contingency if required, but I am very happy to be able to announce to our Sailors and Marines that we are now back to operating in our own back yard."
Other ARG elements consist of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, Fleet Surgical Team 5, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, Assault Craft Unit 5 and Beach Master Unit 1.
The 11th MEU consists of the 11th MEU Command Element; the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); the Ground Combat Element, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines; and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
The U.S. 3rd Fleet comprises nearly 50 million square miles of the Eastern Pacific from the West Coast of North America to the International Date Line.