Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Moroccan Frigates led Kearsarge Strike Group through strait

Tugboats assist the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) as it departs from Naval Station Norfolk on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) followed a pair of Moroccan frigates through the Strait of Gibraltar completing the first leg of its deployment when it entered the Mediterranean Sea.

USS Gonzalez, which called in at Gibraltar, was part of the same group that completed a joint exercise with the Moroccan navy the night before transiting the Strait.

“We appreciate the willingness of the Moroccan navy to provide ships to participate in our exercise, and we were proud to enter the Strait with them at the head of the formation,” said Cmdr. Paul McElroy, operations officer for the strike group.

“The Strait is the gateway to the Mediterranean,” said Capt. Edward Barfield, Kearsarge ESG commander. “It’s also a gateway to our mission and to future adventures.”

Overcast skies and high winds didn’t deter Sailors and Marines from catching a glimpse of the Rock of Gibraltar and snapping a few pictures for their own personal memories, said the US naval spokesman.

“This is the third time I’ve seen it,” said Hull Technician Fireman Joshua Musser. “It’s pretty cool because now we know we’re in the Mediterranean.”

“I didn’t know what it was at first,” added Seaman Jeffrey Fossetta, seeing the Rock of Gibraltar for the first time. “I took some pictures so I could send them home to my mom. It may sound strange, but it reminded me a little of Hawaii.”

Unfortunately, the foul weather prevented helicopter launches, which would have provided an opportunity to photograph the transit.

The USS Gonzalez flew the Gibraltar red and white flag when in port at the weekend and hosted a reception for local personalities. A local touch in the reception was a cake which depicted the vessel above two flags iced on the cake – Gibraltar’s and the Stars and Stripes.

The ESG, which deployed March 25 in support of the global war on terrorism, consists of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce (LPD 15), the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), the guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59), the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune.


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