View Full Version : Navy ship Kearsarge could be diverted to Liberia

06-11-03, 08:43 PM
Navy ship Kearsarge could be diverted to Liberia

June 11, 2003 | Last updated 11:57 AM Jun. 11

The amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, which is in the Atlantic heading home to Norfolk, has been notified that it could be diverted to Liberia, where rebels are besieging the capital city, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

The ship carries about 2,000 Marines as well as landing craft, helicopters and other gear for missions such as evacuating civilians from war-torn areas.

The Kearsarge deployed for the war with Iraq in January as part of Amphibious Task Force East.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Rich Haupt, from the U.S. European Command in Germany, said that while the Kearsarge might be diverted, ``It is a pretty safe bet that we are not going to send the whole fleet down there.

``I can't say if the Kearsarge is going to be home on time or not,'' Haupt said.

The U.S. European Command also has sent a small military team to the area to enhance American abilities to monitor the situation in Liberia, officials said.

The Kearsarge was scheduled to return to Hampton Roads on June 26, after dropping off about 3,000 Marines in Morehead City, N.C. The amphibious assault ship is based at Norfolk Naval Station with a crew of 1,161. It can hold a landing force of 1,893 Marines and equipment and serves as a launch platform.

In Monrovia, Liberia, gunfire and explosions rattled the city Tuesday, as the weakened government bowed to international pressure and said it was ready to resume talks with the rebels.

The rebel offensive is the most intense yet in a three-year campaign to drive out President Charles Taylor, who now controls very little territory outside the capital.

Liberians fear a bloody battle for the city of 1 million, repeatedly overrun during seven years of devastating factional fighting from which Taylor emerged the strongest warlord and went on to win 1997 presidential elections.

Peace negotiations in Ghana between the Liberian government and two rebel groups were postponed Monday because of the fighting. But Liberia's defense minister, Daniel Chea, said he would return there on Wednesday to resume the talks.

His announcement came after repeated appeals by the United Nations, West African mediators and the United States for a cease-fire to allow negotiations to proceed. The Liberian government insists that rebels first withdraw to their previous positions.

U.S. Ambassador John Blaney met with Taylor on Tuesday to make clear the need for an immediate end to fighting in Liberia, a country founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves.

``I'm hopeful after this meeting and pretty confident that the government of Liberia is going to move forward now with alacrity and commitment at the peace table,'' Blaney said.

Frightened residents took advantage of a brief lull in fighting Tuesday morning to stock up on food. Bread, milk and sugar disappeared from the shelves as people lined up at tiny, ramshackle stores.

``It's no time to be choosy,'' said Sarah Menoh, 41, as she waited patiently for her chance at one store's dwindling stocks. ``Whatever can enter the stomach is good to have.''

Fighting broke out again in the afternoon, sending people racing back to their homes. Residents reached by telephone in Monrovia's northwestern suburbs said they could hear the rattle of small-arms fire and intermittent explosions.

``If we go on like this for more than two weeks, the suffering will become untold,'' said James Kollie, 35. ``Our actual plight seems to be unheard of outside of Liberia.''

On Monday, French helicopters swooped to rescue 535 Europeans, Americans, Lebanese and other foreigners who had gathered overnight at the European Union and U.S. Embassy compounds. They were taken to a French warship, which was headed Tuesday to neighboring Ivory Coast.




06-13-03, 09:36 AM
Article ran : 06/13/2003
USS Kearsarge orders confirmed
Military officials confirmed Thursday that Marines and sailors from the USS Kearsarge will remain to join U.S. forces protecting Americans in Liberia.

The Kearsarge, with about 1,900 Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station on board, will "provide the ambassador an enhanced capability to monitor the current situation in Liberia and to be pre-positioned to aid in any evacuation of U.S. citizens," U.S. Atlantic Fleet reported Thursday.

The ship carrying part of Camp Lejeune's 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade was due to deliver troops back to Lejeune at the end of this month, but was redirected to Liberia to support Operation Shining Express, according to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs Office.

The ship's return date is undetermined.

The U.S. European Command sent troops to the civil war-torn west African nation at the request of the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and at the direction of the Department of Defense.

Operation Shining Express includes special operations forces, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and reserve components.

Operation forces will redeploy as soon as it is determined that threats to the embassy compound have ended or an evacuation, if necessary, is completed.

The remaining 2nd MEB troops are still scheduled to be back at Lejeune later this month along with some New River Air Station Marines.

Leathernecks with Marine Aircraft Group-29 are to return June 22, although some members will return later due to the delay of the Kearsarge, the New River Public Affairs office reported Thursday.

The 2,500-member unit, better known as MAG-29, is the air combat element of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which left for Iraq in January to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Each of MAG-29's seven squadrons will return individually. Due to the size of the deployment and the logistics necessary there will be no group fly-in.

"It will take us two days to get all our aircraft and personnel ashore," Col. Robert E. Milstead, MAG-29 commanding officer, said in a letter posted to the group's family Web site.

"Specific arrival windows for each squadron will be determined once we get more of our detailed planning completed," he said.

MAG-29 was assigned two key missions in the war with Iraq: the take-down of Safwan Hill and destruction of the eastern Iraq-Kuwait border posts.

As Marine forces continued north, MAG-29 established a forward operating base at Jalibah, Iraq. From there, the unit supported the seizure of the Al Rumaylah oil fields, the battle of An Nasiriyah, deep force reconnaissance team insertions, rotary wing CAS missions, and a host of casualty evacuation missions and logistics support.