A Report from the Commanders of the USS Kearsarge and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

June 24, 2011 CAPT Pete Pagano, commander of USS Kearsarge Amphibious Group (KSG ARG), and Col Mark Desens, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), joined us for a discussion on their recently completed missions in Southwest Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  Their operations included disaster relief efforts in Pakistan, enforcement of the UN-mandated Libyan no-fly and combat support in Afghanistan.

CAPT Pagano and Col Desens discussed the unique and flexible role of joint collaborations between the Navy’s Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) and Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) in global conflicts.  CAPT Pagano began the discussion by focusing on the most recent deployment of the KSG ARG and its strategic responsibilities.  The Group deployed early in August 2010 to provide disaster relief in Pakistan.  Their deployment soon transitioned into a full spectrum of responsibilities including combat support in Afghanistan and aiding in the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya.  The nature of these simultaneous missions caused the MEU and ARG to divide into smaller task forces and participate in counter piracy and bilateral training, kinetic operations, operational tasking and theatre security.  Capt Pagano concluded his remarks by describing the basic structure of ARGs and the capabilities of the three amphibious ships that make up the unit. 

Col Desens then outlined the specific and diverse capabilities of MEUs.  In addition to kinetic operations, the MEUs contribute to enhancing alliance and partner capacities to ensure security.  The 26th MEU exemplified this by closely coordinating with the Pakistani military and international organizations inside Pakistan to supply humanitarian assistance following devastating floods. The 26th MEU also promoted security and economic development within Afghanistan via village stability operations and critical infrastructure building.

CAPT Pagano then discussed the unit’s operations in the Middle East and North Africa.  He explained how theater security cooperation efforts with allies in the regions foster strong military and political relations.  One such operation allowed for increased interaction between our forces and Operation Enduring Freedom partners.  In addition to bolstering relations, these efforts provide invaluable training.  The simultaneous nature of the deployment resulted in navy centric and marine centric efforts, as well as, joint efforts in theater security cooperation. 

CAPT Pagano and Col Desens concluded with remarks on their units’ response to the conflict in Libya and highlighting the operational flexibility and combat power of the MEUs and ARGs.  In Libya, the KSG ARG and the 26th MEU were responsible for helping to enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone, which necessitated intelligence, air support, command and control and coalition integration.  The discussion ended with a detailed description of how a downed F-15 pilot in Libya was recovered by the pilots responsible for retrieving him, who were present at the briefing.   


Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are OFF-THE-RECORD. It is not an advocacy venue.  This program is cosponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). 

For more information please contact Mark Yarnell at [email protected] or (202) 224-7560.

This event is part of the Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran briefing series in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace. www.usip.org



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