VIRGINIA BEACH -- The amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) returned to her homeport after completing a five-month deployment to the 6th Fleet area of operations (AOR) in the Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, Nov. 30.
“We completed our mission with the assistance of nearly 100 embarked Sailors from Riverine Squadron 32, Beach Master Unit Two, Assault Craft Unit Two, and nearly 200 Marines that made up a Security Cooperation Task Force – which we affectionately referred to as ‘Team MAC,’” said Cmdr. Eric Kellum, Commanding Officer, Fort McHenry.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the deployment came when Fort McHenry hosted the Secretary of the Navy, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chief of Naval Operations and the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland aboard for a reception for the “Emerald Isle Classic” Navy vs. Notre Dame college football game. Accompanying these distinguished guests were local, Irish media representatives, as well as embassy officials and the general public.
The crew kicked off the deployment by participating in valuable training and field exercises with the French Troupe de Marines during a port visit in Lorient, France. During the visit, the ship was thrilled to host the U.S. Ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, for a luncheon and tour.
Upon departing France, the ship sailed to the Black Sea off Constanta, Romania for a combined amphibious assault exercise with Romanian Sailors from the 307th Naval Infantry during Exercise Summer Storm 2012 and Romanian Navy Day.
“The Amphibious nature of our deployment allowed many of us, who have been for the past decade focused mainly on Iraq and Afghanistan, to re-connect with one of our core competencies, which is amphibious operations,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher Curtin, the Team MAC Commander of Troops,
After the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, instead of heading South to an African Partnership Station as scheduled, Fort McHenry supported Department of Defense efforts in the Northern Africa region.
“Team MAC demonstrated the versatility and adaptability of the Navy-Marine Corps team when we shifted from a West Africa theatre security cooperation mission and traveled 1,500 nautical miles to be on-station, ready to support our nation’s bidding after our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked on Sept. 11,” explained Kellum.
“I am proud of the Marines and Sailors of the Security Cooperation Task Force and all that we accomplished,” said Curtin. “Having to quickly and seamlessly transition from our initial mission of supporting theater security cooperation in Europe and Africa to supporting contingency operations, this deployment demonstrated the flexibility and diverse capability that the forward-deployed Navy and Marine Corps team possesses.”
The deployment gave Sailors and Marines the opportunity to build ties with military members from other nations, engage in theater cooperation security efforts and prove her dependability as a critical war fighting asset.
“Team MAC has truly demonstrated the awesome capability that a single amphibious ship and the Navy-Marine Corps team can bring to the fight, the flexibility and options it can provide to the operational commander,” said Kellum.