View Full Version : Marines to leave 'within weeks' to Persian Gulf

10-15-02, 08:21 AM
CAMP PENDLETON ---- An undisclosed number of Marines from San Diego
County-based units are packing up and leaving for the war zones in the
Persian Gulf region "within the coming weeks," a military official said
A spokesman at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, home to nearly 40,000
Marines and sailors, wouldn't say whether the Marines would actually
participate in any war with Iraq, although it's possible given that, late
Thursday, Congress authorized the use of military action to force Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions.
"We've got select forces within (the First Marine Expeditionary Force) who
will deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom," said Maj. Jeff Nyhart, the expeditionary
force's public affairs officer. "I can't get into specifics, units or
Enduring Freedom is the U.S.-led war on terror, which began with military
operations in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban militia and capture terrorists
responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The expeditionary force is the umbrella command for Marine Corps forces that
include ground combat units, such as infantry and tank battalions with the
1st Marine Division, combat support units with the 1st Force Service Support
Group, and jet, helicopter and support squadrons with the 3rd Marine
Aircraft Wing.
The Marines also will participate in "Internal Look," a high-level exercise
for top commanders and war planners led by the U.S. Central Command, which
is running the war in Afghanistan and would lead combat forces into Iraq.
The command, led by Army Gen. Tommy Franks, will shift 600 people from its
headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., to Qatar for the
exercise in mid-November, military officials said.
An additional group of "less than 1,000" service members from other military
commands elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region will be deploying for the
exercise, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman, a Central Command spokesman,
said Friday.
Nyhart said he didn't know how long the local Marines will remain overseas.
"I don't think that has been determined," he said.
Just how many more troops will be ordered to join the U.S. forces in the
Persian Gulf isn't clear.
Marines, sailors and families have been preparing for possible goodbyes.
According to several local Marines, some units are on alert for possible
orders and others have received warning orders, a short step from actual
orders to deploy overseas.
"The whole base is packed up," one enlisted Marine said Friday at Camp
Pendleton. "You can see everybody packing."
Another Marine, a major from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, said the
squadron's Marines are anxious to participate even as they continue their
"Everybody seems calm and collected," said the major, who spoke on condition
of anonymity.
The 45,000-member expeditionary force is the Marine Corps' top West
Coast-based command and is led by Camp Pendleton Lt. Gen. Michael W. Hagee,
who will take over as the next commandant in January.
The force is based at four main installations: Camp Pendleton, Miramar
Marine Corps Air Station, the Marine Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine
Palms, and Yuma Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.
Nyhart wouldn't say how many people, what units or combat equipment and
weaponry are being ordered to the region. "Since the events of last year,
the security concerns are a lot higher," he said.
But not all of the Marines who will depart are assigned to Camp Pendleton.
"There will be some minimal (number of) people impacted at the other bases,"
he said.
Already, the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit is on three
amphibious ships in the Persian Gulf region after wrapping up "Eager Mace"
bilateral exercises in Kuwait on Friday, although it is on a scheduled
overseas assignment that is supposed to end by January. Its assignment could
be extended depending on what the president orders and when the replacement
unit, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, leaves the base.
Other military forces in the region could soon include the San Diego-based
aircraft carrier USS Constellation and its battle group, which is on track
to complete its training by next month.
"The battle group is going real soon," a Navy source said Friday. Two other
aircraft carrier battle groups, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS George
Washington, are in the region.
Since the U.S. war on terror began, the Camp Pendleton-based expeditionary
force has provided small units to the U.S. Central Command for support
military operations overseas.
In the past year, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 13th Marine
Expeditionary Unit, plus small detachments of Marines and a fighter squadron
from Miramar saw combat in Afghanistan.
Also, the then-commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine
Expeditionary, Brigade, Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, led the Marines into
Afghanistan in late November. In August, Mattis took command of the 1st
Marine Division, the expeditionary force's ground combat forces.
The Marine Corps typically assembles a mix of air and ground combat power
and support units, called an "air-ground task force," and tailors it to the
mission or region.
The last time Camp Pendleton-based combat forces were ordered to the Persian
Gulf in a potential face-off with Iraqi was four years ago.
More than 1,500 Marines were called to ship out from Camp Pendleton and
Miramar in early December 1998 for what the Pentagon dubbed "Operation
Desert Fox."
As the first groups of infantry Marines dug into their fighting positions in
Kuwait, however, the operation turned into a four-day bombardment, led
mostly by ship-fired Tomahawk cruise missiles and aerial bombs.