USS Essex docks
Navy tugboats guide the USS Essex to its pier at Naval Base San Diego. Navy photo

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group returned to Naval Base San Diego on Friday after a seven-month deployment that ranged across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Middle East.

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, amphibious transport dock USS Portland and dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor docked after disembarking the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit off Camp Pendleton earlier this week.

“It is a great honor to welcome the Essex ARG and the 11th MEU back to San Diego,” said Rear Adm. Wayne Baze, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3. “Their integrated operations while at sea are a testament to the Navy-Marine Corps team’s ability to face any challenge to accomplish the mission.”

From September to January, in the 5th Fleet area, the group operated in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean.

The Navy and Marine team conducted amphibious combat rehearsals in Kuwait, and ships in the group also participated in individual maritime exercises with the navies of Pakistan, Egypt, Israel and India.

While operating in 7th Fleet area from January to February, the Essex group conducted expeditionary strike force operations with the USS Carl Vinson in the disputed South China Sea. Later, in the Philippine Sea, the Navy held a large-scale exercise with two carrier strike groups and two amphibious ready groups.

“We have an exceptional team made up of the world-class Marines and Sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Essex Amphibious Ready Group,” said Col. James Lively, 11th MEU’s commanding officer. “I am humbled by their commitment to excellence, resilience, and professionalism throughout this seven month deployment.”

“We are indeed thankful to be home and grateful for all the support from our families and friends while we were away,” he said.

Chris Jennewein

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