San Diego, a part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which includes the flagship amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), rejoined the ARG who departed the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO Jan. 9, 2015.
After arriving on station in September 2014, Sailors and Marines immediately began preparing for various exercises and events. Performing as a theater asset for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), San Diego and 11th MEU team stood several alert missions in support of operations in the area.
"San Diego spent time in 5th Fleet for presence. The fleet commander needs ships, aircraft, Marines and Sailors on-call in case of a crisis," said Capt. John Menoni, commanding officer of San Diego. "The majority of our time was spent as a quick reaction force to help out American citizens at the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen, in addition to the training opportunities with some of our best partners in the region."
While in theater, San Diego and the 11th MEU also provided personnel and equipment to complete a variety of training operations. The heavily integrated team seized opportunities to work with the Royal British Navy during exercise Cougar Voyage 2014, the Saudi Arabian Forces during exercise Red Reef 15 and conducted sustainment training exercises in Kuwait and Djibouti.
"The exercises we participated in helped strengthen our partnerships with other militaries and improved security in the region," said Lt. Col. Hanson, executive officer, 11th MEU and Commander of Troops aboard San Diego. "It was rewarding to operate in this area - we kept busy and moved around a lot."
With a high demand to fulfill the mission area requirements, San Diego was left with little room to schedule port visits. The crew spent 93 consecutive days at sea between Hong Kong and the working port visit in Port Khalifa, Abu Dhabi, where they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving.
During San Diego's last port call to Aqaba, Jordan, Jan. 11, 2015, after nearly two additional months at sea, the Navy/Marine Corps team again helped strengthen theater cooperation efforts by hosting tours for the Jordanian military while completing a full wash down of equipment and vehicles in preparation for their return to the U.S.
"We are excited to begin moving our deployment towards home but this was not just a deployment to the CENTCOM or 5th Fleet so our deployment continues," said Hanson. "As we carry our deployment in a direction towards home we will be ready to respond to national and U.S. Pacific Command level tasking as needed during our transit through that area."
San Diego and the 11th MEU were relieved on station by the Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU, who will continue to maintain the critical security posture in the region.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Wild Cards of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 delivers pallets of supplies to the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) during a vertical replenishment with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8).