22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit returns home after extended European deployment


Marines attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) wave to onlookers as they arrive in Morehead City, North Carolina, aboard the USS Arlington-class amphibious transport ship (LPD-24). San Antonio on October 10, 2022. US Navy photo.

Thousands of Marines began returning to North Carolina over the weekend, ending a seven-month deployment to Europe as part of the US regional presence mission following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Group began sending Marines to shore from the three-ship Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group – USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USA Arlington (LPD-24) and USS gunston saloon (LSD-44) — on Friday and continued through Monday.

The ARG/MEU deployed in March with the 22nd MEU made up of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron, 263 (Reinforced), Battalion Landing Team 2/6, and Combat Logistics Battalion 26. The Kearsarge ARG was commanded by Amphibious Squadron Six. Other Marine units that deployed with the ARG included Fleet Surgical Team 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, the Naval Beach Group 2 and the Main Beach Unit 2.

Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Brandon WilsonAdda, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4, directs a light armored vehicle, assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), out from Landing Craft Air Cushion 83, assigned to ACU 4, in Morehead City, NC, Oct. 8, 2022. US Navy photo.

Once underway, the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU dispersed throughout Europe after entering the US 6th Fleet.

“We believe this was the first MEU deployment to the East Coast in a long time that was spent entirely in the 6th Fleet area of ​​operations and the Marines did a tremendous job operating from above the Arctic Circle, all the way down to the Arctic Circle. Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea. the commander of the 22nd MEU, Colonel Paul Mérida, said in a statement.
“All of this was done against the backdrop of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which added an additional sense of importance to our work; much of which was done together with our NATO allies and other key regional partners.”

Marines and sailors worked with NATO allies like the Danes, Norwegians and Estonians, as well as Finland and Sweden as they moved to join the alliance as the war in Ukraine continued.

Operations were largely divided between the Arctic, the Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea.

From left, Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Roald Amundsen (F331), USS Arlington (LPD-24), Norwegian replenishment oiler HNoMS Maud (A530), USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), frigate Portuguese Vasco Da Gama-class NRP Corte-Real (F332), Royal Netherlands Navy multi-mission support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman (A 833), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), and destroyer US Navy Arleigh Burke-class ship USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) sail in formation on September 4, 2022. US Navy photo.

Arlington it operated in the Mediterranean working with the Hellenic Navy in the Alexander the Great 22 bilateral exercise, trained with the Turkish Navy, and joined the Tunisian Navy during the African Lion 2022 exercise.

In the Arctic, the 22nd MEU participated in Exercise Northern Viking 2022, “a multinational maritime and amphibious exercise alongside partner nations from France, Germany, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom,” according to the service. In addition, the Marines operated with the Norwegians in a separate two-week bilateral amphibious exercise.

in the Baltic, Kearsarge Y gunston saloon they were part of the annual BALTOPS 2022 naval exercise in June alongside the Estonian-led exercise Hedgehog (Siil) 22 and the NATO-led exercise Neptune Shield.

“Our time in the Baltic and High North was particularly valuable,” said Mérida, commander of the 22nd MEU.
“I believe that future East Coast MEUs will find the High North and the Baltics not only a challenging training environment, but a region full of very capable friends and allies.”

Marines and sailors sort through mail delivered to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) while it was in port in Brest, France, on July 5, 2022. US Navy photo USA

The entire ARG/MEU returned to the Baltic in August and September for rapidly planned exercises with Finland, Sweden and Standing NATO Maritime Group ONE (SNMG 1).

“The deployment marked the first time an ARG/MEU had maintained a six-month presence in the Baltic region in more than 20 years,” read a statement from the MEU.

Following the return of the 22nd MEU to North Carolina, Kearsarge Y Arlington will shortly return to its home port of Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, while gunston saloon will return to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, USNI News has learned.

The deployment marked a break from two decades of East Coast ARG/MEU missions that were focused on support operations at US Central Command. Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the focus of major formations US naval forces have been to Europe and the Western Pacific. The recently returned Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group scrapped plans for a Middle East slate of missions to take up a steady position in the Mediterranean Sea. Likewise, the George HW Bush CSG has continued to be stationed in the Mediterranean while the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued.


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