Wasp ARG Departs 6th Fleet After Noteworthy Anti-ISIL Mission

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  1. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

    Dec 17, 2015
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    Wasp ARG Departs 6th Fleet After Noteworthy Anti-ISIL Mission


    MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) -- The Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, Dec. 16.

    The ARG's time in theater was highlighted by support of Operation Odyssey Lightning (OOL) in Sirte, Libya.

    The Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) requested U.S. air strike support to better enable their aligned forces to liberate Sirte. After the ARG conducted hundreds of strikes, crippling ISIL's fighting positions, artillery and ammunition stores, GNA-aligned forces claimed liberation of the city on Dec. 6.

    "This ARG/MEU team has done more to support the fight against ISIL than anticipated at the beginning of this deployment," said Commander of the Wasp ARG Capt. F. Byron Ogden. "When we first entered the Mediterranean, we didn't know that we'd be tasked with supporting OOL. We received the orders, conducted planning, and began precision air strikes in a matter of days. We were then able to sustain that mission for 128 consecutive days from two platforms, highlighting the ARG's flexibility and adaptability to effectively execute a mission on short notice."

    AV-8B Harrier II's and AH-1W Super Cobras from the 22nd MEU provided the precision air strike capability from both the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17).

    The two ships relieved one another to carry out the mission continuously from Aug. 1 to Dec. 6. After four months, both crews completed their support of OOL with no major safety issues or aircraft mishaps.

    "Our crew worked tirelessly to carry out this mission, and I'm extraordinarily proud oaf all our Sailors," said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. "They enabled a potent strike capability to support forces on the ground in Sirte, safely executing over 400 combat sorties from Wasp's deck."

    Wasp completed this operation during its first deployment in more than 10 years.

    "This was a significant way to bring Wasp back into the fight," Smith continued. "The crew put a lot of effort to get the ship ready to deploy. Their determination and grit allowed Wasp to stay on-station, supporting OOL for over 100 consecutive days at sea. They never missed a beat for over 3 months."

    Chief Warrant Officer Nicholas Fancher, Wasp's ordnance handling officer, said that this was the largest amount of ordnance he's seen an amphibious assault ship drop in his 17-year career.

    "I'm humbled by this mission and what my crew was able to do day-in and day-out," Fancher said. "When we left, I had a feeling we'd be fighting ISIL somewhere, but I had no idea that it would be this significant of a mission. We are always at the ready."

    Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 6, which commands the Wasp ARG, had tactical control of USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) at different times during the mission.

    "We demonstrated the agility and creativity that we developed during our pre-deployment training to carry out OOL," said Amphibious Squadron Six Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Steve Long. "Notably, we had tactical control of two destroyers, which further expanded our defensive capabilities and ensured the safety of the amphibious task force. This is a unique concept for an ARG, which usually only consists of an LHD, LPD, and LSD."

    The Wasp ARG and 22nd MEU are now entering the final stages of their six-month deployment, as they cross the Atlantic to head home.

    "MEU's exist to go wherever the danger is, and then win whenever we go," said 22nd MEU Commanding Officer Col. Todd P. Simmons. "This is a hard life well lived out here. Every Marine and Sailor performed phenomenally. I couldn't be prouder of this incredible team."

    The Wasp ARG consists of PHIBRON 6, San Antonio, Wasp, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). The 22nd MEU is currently embarked on the Wasp ARG.