Bataan Amphibious Ready Group/26th Marine Expeditionary Unit stay mission ready during pandemic

April 13, 2020

The Sailors and Marines of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are taking additional precautions while deployed at sea to stay healthy and mission ready in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
“The Bataan ARG and 26th MEU team is taking significant steps to remain a flexible, adaptive and persistent force in this region during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Capt. Lance Lesher, Commodore of the ARG. “We are a fully capable crisis response team for our nation. We are inspired by the strength of our families, who are enduring this pandemic back home, and in their honor, we stand strong and ready for any mission our country gives us.”
In addition to the flagship amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the amphibious ready group also includes the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). There are about 4,000 Sailors and Marines combined in the ARG/MEU.
“As a forward deployed crisis response force, we must remain mission ready at all times,” said Col. Trevor Hall, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “Force protection measures against COVID-19 infection are paramount to our mission and ability to provide stability in the region.”
Among the measures implemented aboard one or more ARG ships to reduce the risk of virus transmission are: The addition of a second daily shipwide cleaning, with a focus on applying disinfectant to commonly touched surfaces, such as door knobs and computer keyboards; the employment of food service personnel to distribute silverware, napkins and condiments, to reduce the number of people touching those items; the careful limitation and screening of any personnel coming to or departing ARG ships; vigilant hand washing and sanitizing; and social distancing among Sailors and Marines when practical or necessary.
“Our response to COVID-19 has been made most effective by our thorough Navy-Marine Corps integration,” said Cmdr. Arriel Atienza, officer in charge of the embarked Fleet Surgical Team 4 and Commander, Amphibious Task Force surgeon. “Through open cooperation and constant communication, our blue-green team keeps a close watch on the most current epidemiological and theater guidance. Our commanders have the information they need to implement every necessary precaution, keeping our Sailors and Marines as healthy as possible.”
There have been no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 among Bataan ARG or 26th MEU personnel to date.
The ARG and MEU are operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse includes 20 nations and three critical choke points for global commerce, at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.