Ships of the amphibious ready group (ARG) led by Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) are visiting multiple Baltic Sea ports over the weekend.
Kearsarge has arrived in Helsinki, Finland, while amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) are visiting Stockholm, Sweden; and Tallinn, Estonia.
The ARG-MEU aggregated in the Baltic Sea for the first time on this deployment after passing through the Danish Straits, August 3.
“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 US 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.
“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 Marine Expeditionary Unit 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, US 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.”