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thedrifter
01-02-07, 02:32 PM
January 02, 2007
Bataan ESG, 26th MEU to deploy this week

By William H. McMichael
Staff writer

NORFOLK NAVAL STATION, Va. — The Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group is slated to deploy late this week to conduct maritime security operations “in support of the ongoing rotation of forward-deployed forces,” the Navy’s 2nd Fleet announced.

The group, totaling about 4,000 service members, includes the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. Officials say that unit is not deploying any earlier than previously scheduled.

The Bataan group will deploy over two days, officials said. On Thursday, the amphibious assault ship Bataan, amphibious transport dock Shreveport and attack submarine Scranton will sail from Norfolk Naval Station, Va., while the dock landing ship Oak Hill deploys from nearby Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base.

On Friday, the frigate Underwood will get underway at Mayport, Fla., while the destroyer Nitze and cruiser Vella Gulf leave Norfolk, 2nd Fleet said.

The strike group is commanded by Navy Capt. Donna Looney, commander of Amphibious Squadron 2. The MEU is commanded by Col. Gregg Sturdevant, and includes Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264.

Pentagon officials have said the Bremerton, Wash.-based John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group could deploy several weeks early — as soon as this week — to create a temporary two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf as a show of force for neighboring Iran, which the U.S. believes is trying to become a nuclear-weapon power.

On Dec. 23, the United Nations voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran’s trade for materials and technology aimed at enrichment of uranium, which could be used for either nuclear reactors or bombs.

The U.S. also says Iran continues to provide support for rebels fighting in Iraq.

Staff writer Trista Talton contributed to this report

Ellie