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Iwo Jima ARG returns from Middle East deployment

US, Royal Navy RAS maneuver
USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), left, the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) and the Royal Navy landing platform dock ship HMS Albion (L 14) conduct a replenishment-at-sea, May 9, 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), flagship of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (IWOARG), returned home from a seven-month deployment to Europe and Middle East.

The ship returned to its homeport of Naval Station Mayport, Florida, Oct. 11, after transiting the Suez Canal en route home in late September.

During the deployment, the crew participated in multinational operations and joint training exercises with international partners to foster positive relationships, while ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security. Prior to deployment the crew completed composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) before officially deploying on March 26.

“Over the last eight months, Iwo Jima’s crew consistently performed at the highest levels and always ensured our integrated naval power and operational readiness,” said Capt. David Loo, USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) commanding officer.

The crew made several port calls during the deployment to locations including Rota, Spain; Souda Bay, Greece; Eilat, Israel; and Duqm, Oman, where COVID measures were implemented in order to protect the crew and preserve operational readiness.

“The crew was always at the ready, ensuring every warfighting task and mission were successfully completed, which highlighted the professionalism and expertise of United States Naval forces to our coalition partners and friends,” said Loo. “Despite the challenges we faced during our deployment, the crew stayed resilient, focused, and safe.”

While operating in the 6th Fleet area of operation the crew participated in the bilateral exercise Ragnar Viking with the British Royal marines and the Irish Navy, in addition to participating in an integrated air defense exercise.

The crew also conducted exercises with HMS Queen Elizabeth in 6th Fleet and hosted the UK Minister of Armed Forces as well as the Charge d ’Affairs for the embassy in the United Kingdom.

While operating in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility the crew participated in theater amphibious combat rehearsals (TACR) in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Iwo Jima, along with the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and HMS Queen Elizabeth conducted dual large deck interoperability exercises, a unique opportunity that allowed both navies to exercise coordinating surface operations.

With roughly 4,300 sailors and marines embarked, the IWOARG ships sailed more than 138,000 nautical miles combined, operating dynamically across multiple fleets with NATO allies, partners and friends. The amphibious ready group’s ships completed multiple strait and choke point transits.

The 24th MEU ACE, embarked air wing for the IWOARG, conducted over 3,978 sorties, logged 7,220 flight hours, moved 8,196 passengers and 1,118,870 pounds of cargo over the course of the entire deployment. The HSC-26 detachment logged 1,736 flight hours, 518 sorties, moved 264 passengers and 3,550,030 pounds of cargo. The IWOARG completed 45 replenishment at sea (RAS) evolutions throughout the 6th and 5th areas of operation.

The IWOARG consists of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), and the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17). Embarked detachments for the IWOARG include Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Four, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) Six, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Naval Beach Group (NBG) Two, Beach Master Unit (BMU) Two, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) Two and Four, and Sailors from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) Two.