Article ran : 01/11/2003
Lejeune units moving out
By ERIC STEINKOPFF
JACKSONVILLE DAILY NEWS STAFF

Thousands of Marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune got the official word Friday and will begin leaving as soon as today in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

About 800 Marines and sailors from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment will leave Camp Lejeune this morning, and 7,000 primarily from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade could be gone within the week, military officials said. Their destination was not disclosed but military officials have acknowledged the Middle East is the likely destination as the U.S. conflict with Iraq escalates.

“Elements of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade have received authority to embark Marines on ships and stage gear in preparation for a possible deployment,” 2nd MEB spokesman Capt. Kelly Frushour said Friday.

The 2nd MEB includes the 2nd Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 29 and a brigade service support group, Frushour said.

Three Marine infantry battalions are assigned to the 2nd Marine Regiment: 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Frushour said.

Such infantry units are typically supported by tanks, light armored vehicles, assault amphibian vehicles, combat engineers and reconnaissance Marines.

Marine Aircraft Group 29 includes Marine Aircraft Logistics Squadron 29, Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 302, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadrons 162, 263, 365, said New River Air Station spokesman Staff Sgt. Pat Franklin.

“Each squadron normally includes about 12 helicopters,” Franklin said.

With the exception of the training squadron that does not deploy and the maintenance squadron that keeps other aircraft flying, the remaining squadrons would typically represent 12 CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, six UH-1N Huey utility helicopters, six AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and 36 CH-46 Sea Knight medium lift helicopters.

A brigade service support group is a smaller version of the 2nd Force Service Support Group, with support personnel that include supply, logistics, vehicle drivers, engineers, as well as religious, medical and dental specialists.

On Thursday and Friday, elements of the 2nd MEB were preparing to load amphibious assault ships at the port in Morehead City as well as shuttle personnel and equipment from Onslow Beach and Mile Hammock Bay to amphibious ships off the coast via air-cushioned and utility landing craft.

The amphibious assault ships USS Saipan and USS Ponce have departed Norfolk, Va. and USS Gunston Hall has left Little Creek, Va., said Petty Officer 1st Class Andy Karalis, 2nd Fleet spokesman.

“Saipan, Ponce and Gunston got underway (Friday) and are all in receipt of deployment orders,” said 2nd Fleet public affairs director Cdr. Ernest Duplessis.

Duplessis did not confirm if the ships were headed to North Carolina.

Frushour on Friday could not confirm reports that long lines of buses filled with Marines and sailors traveled north on U.S. 17 from Camp Lejeune to Norfolk, Va.; at least 30 on Thursday and 30 on Friday, too late to board the three assault ships that set sail early Friday morning.

Navy officials could not confirm what other amphibious assault ships might be preparing to join the war on terrorism.

“No other ships are in receipt of deployment orders,” Duplessis said.

On Wednesday, some of an approximately 400-member offshore preparation party left Camp Lejeune for an unidentified port and the remainder of the force left Friday, said Camp Lejeune spokesman Staff Sgt. Jay Connolly.

They are scheduled to board five maritime prepositioning force cargo ships, which transport supplies for the Marine Corps.

The preparation team is readying the equipment to be unloaded by a team of about 500 logistics personnel from the 2nd Force Service Support Group (forward), who departed two weeks ago and are in an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 1 maintains a presence in the Mediterranean Sea and is assigned to the 2nd MEB, while Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 2 is homeported at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and is designed for the West Coast-based 1st MEB, elements of which are already in or on the way to the Persian Gulf.

Each Maritime Prepositioning squadron is designed to support a brigade-size force of up to 16,000 combat troops.

Contact Eric Steinkopff at

esteinkopff@jdnews.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.