News: USS Peleliu Strike Group Concludes Operations in 5th Fleet
From USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Public Affairs Office
USS PELELIU, At Sea " Six ships and nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) have concluded operations in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of operations, July 9.
Deployed Feb. 15 from San Diego and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Sailors and Marines assigned to Amphibious Squadron 3 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), supported Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom, and conducted Maritime Security Operations (MSO) throughout the region.
MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.
"The Sailors and Marines performed superbly during this deployment," said Capt. Pete Morford, commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3. "The Arabian Gulf is not an easy place to operate. With high temperatures and humidity, we experienced many long days, but we completed the mission without fail. Everyone demonstrated true professionalism and served their country well."
Since the amphibious assault ship Peleliu relieved USS Tarawa in early April, COMPHIBRON 3's flagship completed more than 5,337 flight deck evolutions while in the region, with more than 585 hours in support of OIF.
From Peleliu's deck, AV-8B Harriers, assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced) also flew 268 missions into Iraq in support of ground units engaged in OIF - oftentimes flying more than 2,400 miles in one day.
Morford said his strike group was well trained and prepared for all contingencies.
"With a variety of ships and units, we have the capability to respond to a variety of problems, be it peacekeeping operations, non-combatant evacuations, or a coordinated amphibious assault," he said. "Our role in this area can't be overstated."
The ship also hosted military and civilian leaders from various countries in the region, including the head of the Iraqi Navy, Commodore Mohammed Jawad, as well as both the U.S. Ambassadors to Qatar and Kuwait.
Peleliu's Marines from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 11 th MEU (SOC), trained upon regional shores for more than six weeks during the deployment.
"The Marines have done a fantastic job," said Col. John Bullard, who commands the 2,200 Marines assigned to the 11th MEU (SOC). The unit conducted the U.S. Central Command's reserve afloat mission, which requires them to respond to emergency situations within 24 hours.
"From [Joint Task Force] Katrina, to workups, all the way up through the deployment, they've demonstrated the utmost professionalism and competence in the performance of their duties," Bullard continued.
The Marines also conducted various theater security cooperation (TSC) exercises with allies in the region, which included training foreign militaries on how to best fight the war against terrorism. They also provided additional training to Iraqi security forces at Umm Qasr Naval Base on how to effectively defend the Iraqi oil terminals from attack.
But Peleliu wasn't the only ship in the strike group with a vital role.
The Ticonderoga-class, guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), served as the flagship for Commander, Task Group (CTG) 158.1 for much of its time in the North Arabian Gulf. CTG 158.1 is responsible for overseeing the protection of the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT), which account for a large majority of Iraq's gross national product.
Also operating nearby the oil platforms, the Austin-class amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5) provided supplies and services for U.S. and coalition ships protecting Iraq's valuable infrastructure. Additionally, a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment embarked aboard Ogden trained Iraqi sailors and marines who patrol Iraqi territorial waters in their fleet's patrol boats.
The ships of the ESG made several port visits to Bahrain and Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. During these port visits, the crew experienced the local culture and cuisine, purchased souvenirs, and served as ambassadors for the United States and the Navy.
Besides Peleliu, Ogden, and Port Royal, the strike group is comprised of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James (FFG-57); Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 68); Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42); Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21; Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11; Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1; Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5; Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1; and Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit 11, Det. 15.
The strike group worked under the command of ESG 3, commanded by U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, who also commanded Combined Task Force (CTF) 158.
The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse includes three critical choke points located at the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.