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The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Team’s presence in the Estonian port city demonstrates the United States’ commitment, alongside regional Allies and Partners, to preserving Baltic regional security and stability.
Elements of the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU recently completed their participation in Estonian national military exercise Siil (Estonian for Hedgehog). This training event is designed to exercise battalion-level command and control of amphibious operations that enhance Allied interoperability in the Baltic region with a focus on defensive maneuvers.
“The ARG-MEU team is looking forward to visiting Estonia after training alongside the Estonian Defense Forces Reserve units,” said Capt. David Guluzian, commander of the Kearsarge ARG and Amphibious Squadron SIX. “The opportunity to participate in exercise Hedgehog 22 with our Estonian counterparts is evidence of our unified strength and combined combat arms proving our militaries as a ready, postured, and well prepared Allied force.”
The ARG-MEU team, alongside some 15,000 personnel from Estonia and other Allied nations, participated in a variety of exercise events, underscoring the capability and capacity of the ARG-MEU. Commander, Task Force (CTF) 61/2 led U.S. force participation, which consisted of amphibious units attached to the Kearsarge ARG and 22 MEU, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group.
“Throughout the exercise, we were able to execute the amphibious capabilities of the ARG-MEU team as well as train to offensive and defensive tasks in a multi-domain environment against a well prepared and tactically sound opposing force,” said Col. Paul Merida, 22nd MEU commanding officer. “The deployment of forces to support exercises like Hedgehog is evidence that the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group are postured and well prepared to operate with our Allies and Partners to respond to any threat that comes our way.”
Prior to entering Tallinn, the ARG-MEU participated in NATO-led activity Neptune Shield 22 (NESH22) from the Baltic Sea. NESH22 integrates high-end maritime expeditionary warfare capabilities of sea, air and land assets by transferring command and control of the Harry S. Truman carrier strike group and Commander, Task Force 61/2, which includes the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), from U.S. Sixth Fleet to Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and the wider Alliance.
While in port Tallinn, leadership of the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU will host a dinner aboard Kearsarge with Commodore Jüri Saska, Chief of Estonian Navy, and members of his staff. The ship will also host a media availability and ship tours for members of the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonian Military Police, and the Defense Attaché Office while Sailors and Marines enjoy the Estonian culture through local tours and visits to historical sites.
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3); San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2, and Beach Master Unit 2.
Amphibious ready groups and larger amphibious task forces provide military commanders a wide range of flexible capabilities including maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, strike operations, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, counter-terrorism, information operations, security cooperation and counter-proliferation, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and Partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.