Marines on the flight deck of the USS Somerset after returning from an exercise in Peru in December. Navy photo

More than 1,000 sailors and Marines from Littoral Combat Group One returned home to Naval Base San Diego and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Friday after a exercise in South America.

Both the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset and guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer visited Valparaiso, Chile, to participate in the bicentennial anniversary of the Chilean Navy, and the International Maritime and Naval Exhibition for South America, known as EXPONAVAL.

Embarked on the two ships was a special purpose Marine air ground task force which conducted a humanitarian and disaster-response mission in Peru.

“We safely and successfully conducted our mission,” said Capt. Ken Coleman, commodore of the combat group. “I give full credit to our tremendous sailors and Marines. They demonstrated outstanding readiness, tactical expertise and represented our nation and Navy with great pride and professionalism.”

While in Valparaiso, U.S. personnel engaged in community service events and sports competitions with the local community. Somerset also held a reception on board, co-hosted by U.S. fourth Fleet and the U.S. Ambassador to Chile.

The Wayne E. Meyer and an embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment conducted a maritime patrol exercise with the Ecuadorian navy to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

“This exercise allows us to assist our partners in enforcing fisheries laws and protecting the economy in the South Pacific,” said Lt.j.g. Mike Brooks. “A large number of states in this area depend on fisheries for food security and export income, and our Navy-Coast Guard team helps preserve both.”

Alongside the Peruvian Naval Infantry, the special task force conducted a humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise in Chorrillos, Peru, an area prone to natural disasters. The bilateral group successfully demonstrated their ability to provide water purification, electricity, medical services, heavy equipment to clear roads and highways, and helicopters to reach isolated areas quickly in times of natural disaster.

“There were only a few weeks between the time we received the mission and the time we deployed,” said Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, commanding officer of the task force. “Our successful execution on a short notice is a testament to the Marine Corps’ level of readiness and our ability to come together as a Navy-Marine Corps team, rapidly deploy and honor our commitments to our partners and allies.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.