The USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group deployed Wednesday from Norfolk, Va., headed south to pick up Marines from the 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit before heading across the Atlantic.
On its way past Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story, the Kearsarge, USS Arlington and USS Gunston Hall loaded the hovercrafts and landing craft that sailors use to move the Marines on and off beaches, as well as helicopters that carry out a range of missions — from search and rescue to law enforcement to striking at adversaries.
The Navy has given few details about the group’s mission, saying only Wednesday that the group will cross the Atlantic.
Many of the Marines will come on board while the ships are moving, with those landing craft and hovercraft moving through the large openings in the ships’ sterns that lead to their well decks, said Col. Paul Merida, commander of the 22 MEU. Others will arrive by helicopter.
But none of that is new to the Marines or the sailors who work side by side with them — they’ve been drilling together for the past seven months, said Capt. David Guluzian, commodore of the Kearsarge group.
He said the group’s 4,000 sailors and Marines are trained and capable of responding to crises around the world, from humanitarian relief to boarding suspicious ships to amphibious assaults.
The Kearsarge, Arlington and Gunston Hall, along with the 22nd MEU, were the first amphibious group to drill on the transfer of command and control to NATO, something that carrier strike groups have been practicing lately.
For families and neighbors of the group’s sailors and Marines, “be very happy and proud … they are ready, they are capable,” said Capt. Tom Foster, commander of the Kearsarge.
The ship is too, he said, thanks to the maintenance and modernization efforts of shipyard workers.
“The Kearsarge is as ready as she’s ever been thanks to thousands of people in Hampton Roads who came onboard and made sure we’re ready,” he said.
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