12 Jan 2015 | Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lindahl 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

After an extensive operational period involving a variety of operations and exercises, two of the three ships of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), along with their embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) components, transited out of the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) to the 7th Fleet, Jan. 9, 2015.

The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) crossed the threshold while the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) and part of the 11th MEU stayed behind to provide additional support to 5th Fleet until relieved by the Iwo Jima ARG MEU team transiting from the East Coast.

The Makin Island ARG originally arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO Sept. 12, 2014 and immediately conducted air operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve’s coalition air campaign; non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) flights over Iraq and Syria; provided on-call support to diplomatic facilities; worked with British and Kuwaiti forces in exercise Cougar Voyage, conducted exercise Red Reef 15 with Saudi Arabian forces and performed Marine sustainment exercises in Kuwait and Djibouti.

"We've executed a variety of missions throughout the deployment thus far, showing the versatility of the ARG/MEU", said the 11th MEU's commanding officer, Marine Col. Matthew Trollinger. "The preparation, hard work, laser focus and flexibility shown by everyone in this Navy and Marine Corps team has enabled us to have a positive impact on the region. For the portion of the ARG/MEU team still operating in the region, we will continue to fulfill our mission until properly relieved."

With the variety of exercises mixed with the local terrorism threats, the ships were faced with long working hours and some large underway periods. The crew and Marines onboard the Makin Island, the flagship of the ARG, stayed out to sea for 115 consecutive days, a number stretching from before they entered the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO, while providing close-air support over Syria and Yemen and conducting Cougar Voyage.

“This deployment really proved the relevance and the expeditionary value of our naval forces. We operate forward and stay as long as necessary conducting a large menu of capability,” said Makin Island’s commanding officer, Capt. Jon P. Rodgers. “I am proud of the salt in this crew and their mission focus while spending nearly an entire 5th Fleet deployment period at sea—a checkmark in any Sailor’s life.”

Comstock did not have as many uninterrupted days at sea, but did get a visit from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Adm. Jonathan Greenert, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), Mike D. Stevens, a day after Thanksgiving. Greenert re-enlisted nine Sailors on the ship’s flight deck that gave the crew a renewed sense of importance.

As the Sailors and Marines transition back to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operation, noticeably pointing east toward their homeport of San Diego, senior officials are quick to point out that the focus remains on the mission at hand.

“It is important to note that we are not heading home yet, we are merely shifting focus to the 7th Fleet as part of our Western Pacific deployment. Safety and attention to detail are paramount and our success will be determined by our focus on mission readiness as we continue to sail the seas to promote peace and free trade,” said Capt. Steve McKone, commodore of the ARG and commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Five.

The ARG is continuing on their deployment with the 11th MEU that began July 25, 2014 to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing security and stability in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet AOOs.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Caleb Hyatt
Commanding Officer

Colonel Caleb Hyatt is a native of Tamarac, Florida. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant following graduation with merit from the United States Naval Academy in May 2001. Colonel Hyatt’s command positions include Guns Platoon Commander, Battery S, 5th Battalion, 10th Marines; Headquarters Battery Commander, 5th Battalion, 11th Marines; Battery R Commander, 5th Battalion, 11th Marines; and Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines. Colonel Hyatt has deployed in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM with artillery, light armored reconnaissance, and logistics units. Colonel Hyatt holds a BS in Computer Science, MA in Management, MMAS in Theater Operations, and an MS in National Security Strategy. Colonel Hyatt is also a 2023 distinguished graduate from the National War College.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Geronimo Guzman
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major Guzman enlisted in the Marine Corps in November of 1998. He attended recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California. In April of 1999, Private First Class Guzman transferred to the Material Readiness Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, Okinawa, Japan. In July of 2005, Sergeant Guzman reported to Drill Instructor School, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California. In May of 2011, Staff Sergeant Guzman reported to the Officers Candidate School, Quantico, Virginia. In November of 2019, Sergeant Major Guzman was promoted to his current rank and reported to Recruiting Station Sacramento. In July 2022, Sergeant Major Guzman reported to 1st Maintenance Battalion, where he previously served as the Battalion Sergeant Major.

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