The group on Friday left the Navy's 6th Fleet area of operations -- which includes the Mediterranean Sea -- marking the final leg of a six-month deployment that saw significant involvement in combat operations against the Islamic State group. This included the liberation of Sirte, Libya, while supporting Operation Odyssey Lightning, according to a Navy news release.
"When we first entered the Mediterranean, we didn't know that we'd be tasked with supporting OOL," said Capt. F. Byron Ogden, the group's commander, referring to the operation in a statement. "We received the orders, conducted planning, and began precision air strikes in a matter of days."
AV-8B Harrier II vertical short-takeoff and -landing jets and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters from the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit spent 128 consecutive days launching sorties from the Wasp or from the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio, which relieved one another during the mission to assist the Libyan Government of National Accord in liberating the coastal city of Sirte, the Navy said.
The San Antonio came under attack in the Red Sea in October, when missiles were fired on the ship from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. It was unharmed.
The group left June 25 for the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf. In addition to the Norfolk-based Wasp and San Antonio, the ready group includes the amphibious dock landing ship Whidbey Island, based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach. They were accompanied at times during the deployment by the guided missile destroyer USS Carney, based in Rota, Spain, and the Mayport, Fla.-based guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans, the Navy said.
June's deployment was the first in more than a decade for the flagship Wasp, which in recent years received an upgrade of its combat systems and served as a test platform for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It will move to a new homeport at Sasebo, Japan, in fall 2017, the Navy has said.
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki, a U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman, said he could not give an exact date for the group's return.