'Iron Nickel' Departs 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility
ABOARD USS PELELIU, At Sea - San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) departed the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Nov. 1, after completing a regularly scheduled deployment supporting maritime security, regional stability and performing humanitarian aid/disaster relief operations in Pakistan.
Peleliu and embarked Marines of 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) relieved amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) in July and served as the command platform for Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). The ship operated with amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Dubuque (LPD 8).
Peleliu ARG reported to Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5 upon its arrival to 5th Fleet.
“When I visited Peleliu, I told them to be ready for any number of contingencies,” said Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, Peleliu’s immediate superior in command while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet. “The unique capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps it makes them the ideal response team for a variety of missions.”
Peleliu first operated in the Gulf of Aden, conducting maritime security operations, however after monsoon rains hit Pakistan causing catastrophic flooding, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the ship to transit the Arabian Sea to support humanitarian assistance efforts. Peleliu steamed more than 1,000 miles and arrived off the coast of Karachi, ready to support Paistan government and military relief efforts.
Peleliu initially launched eight CH-46E Sea Knight and four CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) and three MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters from Navy Mine Countermeasure Squadron 15 (HM-15) to ferry supplies ashore and help rescue people affected by the flooding.
“These men and women have worked tirelessly launching aircraft, getting supplies ready for delivery, and performing to the highest standards of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,” said Capt. Mark Cedrun, Peleliu’s commanding officer. “The Sailors and Marines performed superbly throughout our entire time in 5th Fleet.”
Peleliu remained off the coast of Pakistan for 10 weeks, helping evacuate nearly 9,000 internally displaced persons and delivering more than six million pounds of food and relief supplies.
Peleliu’s positioning in the North Arabian Sea also provided the embarked AV-8B Harriers assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 311 the opportunity to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The Harrier detachment flew more than 500 hours of close air support missions over Afghanistan, as the ship simultaneously supported Pakistan relief efforts.
“Flight operations at any time require precision and attention to detail,” said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Henry Nusi, the Air Department’s leading chief petty officer. “Simultaneously flying two different missions was an all hands effort, and the crew performed well, despite the extreme heat and long working hours.”
Pearl Harbor and Dubuque will also depart the 5th Fleet AOR later this month.
USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit relieved the Peleliu ARG and 15th MEU as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command.