Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) exercise while underway during composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), July 23.
NEO exercises help to prepare Kearsarge for the safe evacuation of Americans or third country nationals during times of natural disaster or internal strife abroad.
According to Lt. Blaine C. Barnard, Kearsarge’s security information officer, NEO is a critical amphibious ready group mission and one that is most likely to be conducted during deployment.
“NEO is an all-hands effort. Every department plays a role,” said Barnard. “NEO exercises allows Kearsarge to protect U.S. citizens and its closest allies on a global scale.”
Marines and Sailors work together to accomplish a NEO mission where Marines are the ground forces that help evacuate people in distress and get them safely to the ship while Sailors aboard the ship provide food during the time aboard.
“It takes a lot of moving parts and ideas to make it work,” said Cdr. Emori A. Moore, Kearsarge’s senior medical officer. “We are prepared to assist movement of our own forces ashore upon return as well as care for evacuees of U.S., partner and host nations.”
Moore said Kearsarge is capable of taking care of critically ill patients as well as pediatric, obstetric and elderly care for a limited time.
“We have five operating rooms on board, which includes an emergency room,” said Moore. “We have 48 beds at all times and if needed we can utilize troop berthing to expand that number to over 500.”
The Kearsarge Ready Group (KSGARG) is participating in COMPTUEX in preparation for deployment later this fall and is comprised of Kearsarge, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, 26th MEU, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD 24).
Image: US Navy