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Destroyer Squadron FIFTY (DESRON 50)
Battle Force Fifth Fleet (CTF-50)
Commander Middle East Force

On Sept. 11, 2001, Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Zelibor was assigned responsibilities as the commander of Task Force 50, in charge of a three-carrier task force in the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Adding new players who were not used to his methods of doing things could have caused problems. However, Zelibor said, he was pleasantly surprised with the results.

In the absence of a carrier battle group, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50 serves as Commander, Middle East Force Surface Action Group in charge of the Navy's role in the United Nations Maritime Interception Operation, enforcing sanctions against Iraq. Additionally, DESRON 50 coordinates the Navy's extensive regional exercise program for surface combatants, working with friends and allies in the Gulf region. U.S. naval forces in the Gulf conducted more than 60 exercises in 1995 -- up from seven, five years ago.

Desron 50, equiped with Fletcher Class Destroyers, participated in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea, 19-20 June 1944. DESRON 50 became the first destroyer squadron to be permanently forward-deployed in the Persian Gulf region when it was reestablished 30 November 1994 during ceremonies aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). CAPT David M. Stone took command of DESRON 50, 49 years after it stood down in the Pacific. DESRON 50's story has roots in World War II when the squadron commodore and his staff coordinated combat elements in the Pacific Theater from Oct. 1943 until its disestablishment in Nov. 1945. The de facto home port for Commander, Middle East Force since 1949, Manama in Bahrain has also been host to the Administrative Support Unit since 1971 and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) since 1993.

Cruisers, destroyers, and frigates deploy to the region, usually about five at a time, to form the Middle East Force, or MEF as it is called. They perform missions such as Maritime Interception Operations (MIO), participate in regional exercises, and serve during contingencies. They deploy as either the LANTMEF (Atlantic MEF) or PACMEF (Pacific MEF). While in the region, they are coordinated in Fifth Fleet by Commander, Destroyer Squadron Five Zero.

Commander Middle East Force also serves as Commander Destroyer Squadron FIFTY. Destroyer Squadron FIFTY is a Bahrain-based unit with a wealth of U.S. 5th Fleet operating experience. DESRON 50 is in Bahrain 365 days a year. They are very familiar with all the Gulf countries and the coalition forces. The USS DAVID R. RAY (DD 971) deployed to the Arabian Gulf in October 1994 and served as Flagship to Commander, Destroyer Squadron FIFTY conducted Maritime Interception Operations in boarding numerous suspect vessels resulting in the diversion and detention of three vessels.

Providing a continuous naval presence in the absence of a deployed CVBG or ARG are the ships of Commander, Task Force FIFTY. These ships work closely with other coalition participants to enforce UN sanctions against Iraq. Under Operational Command of COMFIFTHFLT, COMDESRON 50 is the Multi-National Interdiction Operations (MIO) Commander for the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG) patrol area, working in company with American, Canadian and other naval forces providing around the clock surveillance and enforcement of United Nations Sanctions against Iraq. Many of the vessels to be boarded are smaller Indian Cargo Dhows or Mandi Kutches of approximately 250 - 500 tons. Though small in size, the Cargo Dhows presented many unique problems to the boarding parties, primarily limited access to cargo holds and more importantly, a distinct language barrier.

The guided-missile frigate USS Jarrett (FFG 33) participated in a combined naval exercise between the United States and a friendly gulf nation's forces in January 1995. Under the direction of U.S. Commander in Chief Central Command (CINCCENT) and the direct tasking of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Jarrett conducted exercises with three naval ships of a host Arabian nation. Jarrett, home ported in San Diego, was deployed in the Persian Gulf under the operational control of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 50. Jarrett was a member of Middle East Forces operating in support of Operation Southern Watch. The intent of the exercises was to improve the readiness and interoperability between the United States and friendly naval forces.

USS O'Brien (DD-975) returned home 28 August 1998, following a lengthy Middle East force deployment. O'Brien was assigned various missions during its three and a half month stay in the Gulf. In mid-April the ship participated in the multinational exercise "Neon Spark 98" with British and Bahraini units, serving as flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 50.

Middle East Force 99-3 consisted of USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS John Young (DD 973), and USS Ford (FFG 54).

USS Cushing (DD-985) and HSL 51 Detachment One, based at NAS Atsugi, Japan, departed Yokosuka 05 January 2000 on deployment (MEF 00-1) bound for the Arabian Gulf as part of the Fifth Fleet and Middle East Force.

The guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) pulled into Cobh, Ireland, home of the Irish Navy. The five-day visit in April 2000 was BARRY's first port visit since beginning their MED/MEF 00-1 deployment.

Middle East Force 00-4 included USS Higgins.




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