Naval Aviation Forces Now Striking ISIL from Two Theaters as USS Boxer Harriers Join the Fight

By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs | June 16, 2016

ARABIAN GULF -- U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers flying from USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Arabian Gulf joined strike aircraft operating from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Mediterranean Sea June 16.

This marks the first naval aviation combat strike missions of Operation Inherent Resolve launched from Navy warships in two different operational theaters.

The Harriers are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166, the aviation combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked in the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.

"These missions from the flight decks of USS Boxer, like those from the USS Harry S. Truman, demonstrate the inherent flexibility of naval forces," said Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. "Today, U.S. naval forces are striking ISIL simultaneously from both the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf. Of course the engine of this effort is our nation's Sailors and Marines serving with the USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit; they, together with our joint and coalition partners, are dismantling and rolling back terrorist networks in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere."

"We look forward to providing our many capabilities to support Operation Inherent Resolve," said Capt. Keith Moore, commodore for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group. "Our Navy [and] Marine Corps team here on Boxer, along with the outstanding Sailors aboard Harry S. Truman in the Med, are ready to support all OIR missions. Together, we will do our part to disrupt and destroy ISIL."

"Naval forces' support to Operation Inherent Resolve from the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf demonstrates the range of capacity of the modern Navy and Marine Corps," said Marine Col. Anthony Henderson, commanding officer of the 13th MEU. "The conduct of air strikes supporting Iraqi Security Force operations against ISIL reflects the multiple capabilities the global ARG/MEU team brings to the theater."

Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group began combat sorties from the eastern Mediterranean Sea June 3, in support of OIR over Syria and Iraq. The CSG transited the Suez Canal June 2, after conducting operations in the 5th Fleet area of operations since Dec. 14, 2015. The strike group's deployment was extended to support dismantling and rolling back the ISIL terrorist network from the 6th Fleet area of operations before it will return home to Norfolk.

The Boxer ARG arrived in U.S. 5th Fleet April 5. Consisting of more than 4,500 Sailors and Marines, the Boxer ARG/13th MEU is composed of its command ship, amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

In addition to naval aviation missions against ISIL in support of OIR, the Marines and Sailors of Boxer ARG team are supporting theater security cooperation efforts and conducting maritime security operations throughout 5th Fleet.

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.