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Shaffer
10-15-02, 09:20 AM
Command staff from Camp Pendleton's massive 1st Marine Expeditionary Force
are being dispatched to Kuwait in what could be a prelude to U.S. military
action against Iraq.
"We're sending selected forces to support Operation Enduring Freedom and for
External Look, a command and control exercise that will test battle staff,"
Maj. Jeffrey Nyhart, a 1st MEF spokesman, said Saturday.
"They'll be leaving in the coming weeks. I can't say how many are going, but
it is a significant number of people."
1st MEF is composed of 45,000 Marines and sailors at Camp Pendleton, Miramar
(in San Diego), Twentynine Palms and a base in Yuma, Ariz. The force, which
includes infantrymen, artillery operators and attack helicopter pilots, has
not been deployed in full since the Persian Gulf War.
The deployment of 1st MEF command staff was ordered by the Pentagon, which
also is sending leaders from the Army's V Corps to the Persian Gulf.
Hundreds of command personnel from the Navy and Air Force are already in the
region. And a large group from the U.S. Central Command is scheduled to
leave for the gulf shortly.
Defense analysts say the buildup will give the U.S. military the core of
command staff it needs to launch military action against Iraq. Congress
formally gave the Bush administration authority for such force during
deliberations Thursday.
Thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines are already in the gulf,
including 2,100 members of Camp Pendleton's 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
(MEU). One 11th MEU Marine was killed and a second was wounded Tuesday when
they were attacked by suspected terrorists during a training exercise in
Kuwait.
Another Pendleton unit, the 15th MEU, spent Saturday near Stockton
undergoing urban-warfare training in preparation for deployment to the gulf
in January.