View Full Version : Long voyage home

05-03-03, 10:23 AM
Article ran : 05/03/2003
Long voyage home
Some troops with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are due back at Camp Lejeune today, and the 7,000-member 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade may return by early July.

Earlier this week, 24th MEU troops left Iraq to reboard their ships in the Mediterranean. Today, roughly 120 members of MEU commander Col. Rich Mills’ advance party are expected to fly into Cherry Point Air Station during a break in the facility’s air show schedule.

After landing, they will board buses and head to Camp Lejeune, where they will make preparations for the rest of their unit’s arrival probably late this month.

Such an advance group typically establishes contracts to unload people and equipment at the state ports and move troops into barracks rooms and equipment into weapons armories and vehicle storage lots.

The advance team also sets up communications to ensure that the troops are fed, paid and free to spend leave time with their families.

The arrival of such advance groups will probably become a common sight. Unconfirmed reports are filtering through the community that more Camp Lejeune-based troops are loading the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in the Persian Gulf.

Probably among them is the 7,000-member 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, known as Task Force Tarawa, that left Lejeune in mid-January aboard the seven amphibious assault ships. The 2nd MEB saw combat in southern and central Iraq.

Military officials have yet to confirm that families of those aboard USS Kearsarge were told that, barring any foreseen circumstances on the docks or increased hostilities in the Middle East, the ship could be back in eastern North Carolina waters as early as the last week of June and not later than July 3.

When the 2,200 members of the 24th MEU left eastern North Carolina in August aboard the USS Nassau, USS Austin and USS Tortuga, they were supposed to be back in March.

But after a month of peacekeeping in Kosovo, exercises along the Horn of Africa and combat in southern Iraq, there are signs that they’re on their way home.

On Thursday, five EA-6B Prowler jets of VMAQ-2, carrying 20 aviators, returned to Cherry Point Air Station from the Persian Gulf.

The remainder of the squadron’s main body, more than 130 mechanics and ground support personnel, are due back this week.

Contact Eric Steinkopff at esteinkopff@jdnews.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 236.