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ARG flagship Kearsarge, San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) arrived in Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tallinn, Estonia, respectively, demonstrating the United States and like-minded nations’ commitment to preserving security and stability in the region.
The ARG-MEU aggregated in the Baltic Sea for the first time on this deployment after passing through the Danish Straits, August 3. While operating in the Baltic Sea, the Sailors and Marines of the ARG-MEU will have multiple opportunities to foster relationships built on a common foundation of shared values, experiences, and vision for the region and for Europe.
"We are thankful to be welcomed back to the Baltic to further our partnership with our close friends and allies," said Brig. Gen Andrew Priddy, commanding general, Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division (TF 61/2). “We look forward to our future training and cooperation.”
For Kearsarge and Gunston Hall, this marks a return to the Baltic Sea. Both ships participated in the Estonian-led exercise Siil 22 in May and the annual joint, multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, in June. The ships also conducted previous port visits in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Tallinn earlier this year.
This is Arlington’s first time in the Baltic Sea since deploying from the U.S. East Coast. Since arriving in theater, Arlington’s Sailors and Marines have participated in a wide array of bi-lateral and multinational exercises throughout Europe and Africa, including Northern Viking with Iceland, Greece’s exercise Alexander the Great, EFES in Turkey, and African Lion off the coast of Northern Africa.
Arlington’s operations in the Baltic Sea underscore the geographic diversity of the ship’s deployment and highlight the enhanced capability the ARG-MEU team brings to the overall area of operations.
“This is the first opportunity that the Marines on the Arlington have to visit the Baltic,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Myette, executive officer of the 22nd MEU embarked aboard Arlington. “We look forward to enjoying some of the hospitality that our fellow Marines on the other ships enjoyed previously in the deployment. Sweden is a critical partner, and this is a great opportunity for the Marines to experience some of its rich culture before we resume training with our many allies and partners in the Baltic region.”
All three ships recently completed near-simultaneous mid-voyage deployment repair (MDVR) and maintenance periods in Brest, France; Rijeka, Croatia; and Copenhagen and Kalundborg, Denmark. These maintenance periods allowed the ships to accomplish necessary and preventative repairs to continue their missions in the region while simultaneously strengthening relationships with host nations.
“Taking time to conduct MDVRs to maintain and repair safety and mission-essential equipment aboard the ARG ships was crucial to ensure a successful continuation of the ARG’s deployment throughout Sixth Fleet,” Capt. Paige Sherman, U.S. Sixth Fleet’s Director Logistics (N41), said. “The deliberate maintenance and logistics efforts in these locations were challenging, but across the board, the pursuit to continuously work and develop relationships with our partners expands the readiness posture of our ships and strengthens interoperability with our Allies.”
While pierside, the ARG-MEU Sailors and Marines will have the opportunity to explore the port cities of various allied and partner nations, gaining a deeper historical and cultural appreciation of the nations in the region while fostering interpersonal relationships and enjoying some rest and reset time.
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 (LDS 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.
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.