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thedrifter 01-08-2004 07:34 AM

Bataan, Boxer to carry Marines to Middle East within next two weeks
 
January 07, 2004

Bataan, Boxer to carry Marines to Middle East within next two weeks

By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer

Two amphibious assault ships ? one from San Diego, one from Norfolk, Va. ? will deploy within the next two weeks to carry Marines and combat gear to the Middle East, Navy sources said Wednesday.
The San Diego-based Boxer and the Norfolk-based Bataan will carry ?a very small number of Marines? and larger amounts of combat gear to the Persian Gulf region, according to Paul Taylor, a spokesman for the Navy?s Commander, Fleet Forces Command. The two ships will travel unaccompanied, Taylor said.

The Boxer is scheduled to get underway Jan. 14; Taylor, citing security concerns, could not provide the Bataan?s deployment date but said it will leave Norfolk ?in more than a week.?

Taylor could not provide details on the Marine units involved, their specific mission or for whom the equipment is meant; Capt. Dan McSweeney of Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., said the deployment order for the Marines involved has not yet been released.

A total of 50,000 Marines and 6,500 Marine Reservists are slated to deploy to Iraq beginning in March, with about half taking part in each of two seven-month rotations, officials say; those Marines will relieve units of the Army?s 82nd Airborne Division, which has been conducting security and stability operations west of Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Navy is sending assault ships instead of supply ships because, Taylor said, there are no special requirements for packing and storing the equipment that?s being transported, as would be the case on a Military Sealift Command ship. This way, he said, the Marines ?can immediately begin using their gear? as soon as it arrives.

Taylor said the current at-sea threat will allow the ships to travel unescorted and without their Marine Harrier jump jets. Once near the Persian Gulf, he said, the two ships will enjoy the protection of allied naval forces already in the region.

William H. McMichael is Hampton Roads, Va., bureau chief for Navy Times. Reach him at (757) 223-0096 .

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/sto...925-2535317.php


Sempers,

Roger


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