July 13 (UPI) -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Camp Lejuene, N.C., after a seven-month deployment, the Marines announced on Monday.
The unit of about 2,400 Navy and Marine personnel was forward-deployed aboard the Amphibious Ready Group led by the USS Bataan, and served as a crisis-response force of the U.S. 2nd, 5th and 6th Fleets for combatant commanders of the Europe, Africa and Central commands, officials said.
The 26th MEU supported operations and engagements, conducted theater security cooperation activities with bilateral partners, and executed sustainment training to respond to crises and contingencies, a Marine Corps statement on Monday said.
"This deployment presented unique challenges, but the Navy-Marine Corps team prevailed and incessantly provided our fleet commanders with a responsive, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force, even during the global novel coronavirus pandemic," commented Col. Trevor Hall, 26thMEU commanding officer.
While in the Arabian Gulf, the force conducted exercises off the coasts of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In May, it participated in precision-maneuvering exercises with the Italian amphibious transport dock ship ITS San Giorgio, the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral and the French frigate FS Guepratte. It also was involved in live-fire exercises in Bize, Albania, during its deployment.
The 26 MEU includes a Battalion Landing Team, Combat Logistics Battalion and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron. It deployed aboard the flagship Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York and the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill.
It was one of the few Marine Corps units forward-deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.