ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited with Sailors and Marines in time for the holidays aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), Dec. 19.
During his visit, Carter shared his holiday message and appreciation to the Kearsarge Sailors and Marines, presented medals during an awards ceremony, and spoke on the vital role the ship has during deployment.
"It's the holiday season and one of the reasons for being on Kearsarge today is to say thank you from my family to yours," said Carter during an all-hands call in the ship's hangar bay. "My wife Stephanie is here with me and we want you to know that military life is a family affair. Your families back home know that you're doing the noblest thing you can possibly do — serve our nation and make a better world for our families."
Accompanying Carter on his holiday visit to Kearsarge was the U.S. 5th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, Commander Task Force (CTF) 51, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III and the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, William V. Roebuck.
Carter also addressed the role Kearsarge's Sailors and Marines have while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations including the ship's support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
"Your mission, right here, right now, is very important." said Carter. "The gulf region is vital for maritime security and you're supporting several additional mission areas all at the same time. I'm also here to accelerate our campaign to defeat ISIL and I'm confident we will do it."
Operation Inherent Resolve is a coalition mission with partner nations to conduct targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
Capt. Larry Getz, commanding officer, USS Kearsarge, expressed his gratitude for Carter's holiday message and visit.
"The Kearsarge team was proud to host several senior U.S. civilian and military leaders on board," said Getz. "The Secretary ate lunch with our Sailors and Marines and delivered a personal holiday greeting. The crew heard first-hand on how our efforts here in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are making a positive impact in the region and around the globe."
During the all-hands call, Carter presented Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals to Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Airman Alexandra Leon, Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Hildebrand and Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Kelly Ralston. He also presented a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal to Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael Cole, Jr., of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's communications department.
"All of the awardees were honored to be recognized by the SECDEF today," said Ralston, from Spring Hill, Kansas. "Visits like today remind us of the importance of what we do in service to our nation."
Capt. Augustus P. Bennett, commander Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, and commodore of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG), had staff members present during the event.
"The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group was pleased to host the U.S. Secretary of Defense and his wife Stephanie," said Bennett. "The Sailors and Marines were elated by his visit and support for the upcoming holidays. To hear how important our missions and operations are while forward deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations from the Secretary of Defense was truly motivational. We remain committed to supporting freedom around the world in this campaign to intensify and accelerate the defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq."
The KSGARG, comprised of the flagship Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.