ROTA, Spain — With the final agricultural inspections of the USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) and USS Ponce (LPD-15) over and done, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Marines and Sailors aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) completed the final wash down and inspection of the unit's assets here Jan. 18. They filled the wash-racks here to complete the operation and in doing so, the unit marked its final hurdle before beginning the trans-Atlantic voyage home.
The unit was able to complete their final wash down and inspection in only two days due to round-the-clock shifts and many long hours spent cleaning while still at sea. During the trip from the unit's most recent operation in Israel, Marines and Sailors piled into the lower decks of Kearsarge to clean all types of gear including weapons, communications equipment, tents and containers. Prior to entering the Suez Canal, members of the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261 (Reinforced), cleaned aircraft atop the ship's flight deck.
"The Marines cleaned all the equipment they had," said Marine Sgt. Justin Bradley, a squad leader with Weapons Plt., India Co., Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. They cleaned and polished everything from seven-ton trucks and humvees to potable water canisters.
"Everything that has touched foreign soil will be cleaned," said Bradley as he supervised the cleaning of unit's many shipping containers. "We don't want to bring anything that may be foreign to the United States back; any parasites, germs, or anything of that nature that could damage our own agricultural processes."
The Marines and Sailors worked eight-hour shifts around-the-clock to finish the job and expedite the journey home.
"The wash down is pretty much the culminating event as far as the home leg is concerned," said Bradley. "It's always the last major operation before returning home."
USS Kearsarge and embarked elements of the 22nd MEU (SOC) began the voyage west Jan. 19. The unit left Camp Lejeune July 31, 2007.
The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Ground Combat Element, BLT 3/8; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.