US Navy’s amphibious assault ships USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) switched places as Essex, alongside its amphibious ready group, entered the Persian Gulf on September 17.
Several days later, sister ship USS Iwo Jima departed the Middle East following a Suez Canal transit. Accompanied by USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and USS San Antonio (LPD-17), USS Iwo Jima, completed an almost four-month stay in the region.
One of the more notable aspects of the Iwo Jima ARG deployment is the debut of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with an East Coast MEU. Most recently, marines and sailors deployed with the group were dispatched to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, to support the non-combatant evacuation in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country.
USS Essex, which is de facto succeeding Iwo Jima in the region, entered the Persian Gulf after starting its deployment from California in August.
The Essex ARG includes the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), along with amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD 27), dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), expeditionary sea base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), and dry cargo and ammunition ship USS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8).
While in the Persian Gulf, Essex, flagship of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), and the 11th MEU will operate and train alongside regional and coalition partners.
The amphibious ready groups switched places as aircraft carrier USS Reagan Reagan departed Middle East, after a rare, three-month stay. The carrier started the return to its forward-deployed homeport in Japan on September 16, after supporting the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.