As many as 5,000 Marines and sailors returned home after the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group returned to port at Naval Base San Diego on Sunday, ending a seven-month deployment.
The Makin Island ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, and amphibious transport dock ships USS San Diego and USS Somerset, and led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron THREE.
The ARG-MEU team departed November 10, after completing a pre-deployment sequester and back-to-back at-sea exercises in October.
Deployment included missions all over the globe, from maritime exercises in the Arabian Sea to Expeditionary Strike Force operations in the South China Sea, and ended with exercises in the Gulf of Alaska.
“I am so excited to be able to welcome home the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit to San Diego,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3. “These ships were deployed during an unprecedented pandemic and demonstrated the ability of the Navy and Marine Corps team to fight through to do the mission.”
Due to the pandemic, Marines and Sailors were deployed longer than normally planned.
“We took a very well-developed training plan and really rewrote it prior to deployment. What would’ve been six months, closer to eight months that people were away from their loved ones,” said LtCol Joseph Begley, Marines.
The Makin Island group experienced unique challenges and new missions, brought by pandemic, such as being the first Navy ships to administer COVID-19 vaccines while at sea.
Families and friends anticipated the long-awaited arrival of their loved ones. New father, Keith Ratliff, reunited with his family and met his baby boy for the first time.
“I’m happy to be back. I got my son, got my wife here” Ratliff said. “It’s an amazing feeling to be back.”