ARABIAN GULF — Naval Aviation rejoined the fight against ISIL Nov. 19 when AV-8B Harriers from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)162(Reinforced) launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) to conduct their first missions over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).
The last Naval Aviation missions in support of OIR were Oct. 17, from USS Essex (LHD 2).
"We will continue to work with our coalition partners to drive ISIL out of Iraq and Syria," said Lt. Col. Brian T. Koch, commanding officer of VMM-162(REIN). "We operate around the clock to defend America, and to keep our families at home safe."
VMM-162(REIN) is the aviation combat element of the 26th MEU, currently embarked with the Kearsarge ARG.
Capt. Augustus P. Bennett, commander, Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), said the Sailors and Marines under his charge are prepared for what lies ahead.
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group with the embarked 26th MEU along with our coalition partners are here to degrade and destroy ISIL's current operations under OIR," Bennett said. "The combined ARG-MEU team is an expeditionary Navy/Marine Corps force that stands ready and has been trained for these types of operations. We're here to assure our allies, deter any adversaries and provide a persistent U.S. presence here in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations."
In addition to Naval Aviation missions against ISIL in support of OIR, the Marines and Sailors of the ARG-MEU team are deployed throughout the region conducting various missions including theater security cooperation and maritime security operations.
The Kearsarge ARG arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet Nov. 1. The U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of the Middle East's maritime reaches and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.