USS Bataan Offloads Marines in Support of OIF
Story Number: NNS040225-07
Release Date: 2/25/2004 11:55:00 AM
By Journalist Seaman Brian Anderson, USS Bataan Public Affairs
ABOARD USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) offloaded Marines, their equipment and ammunition into Kuwait Feb. 20-22 for their scheduled seven-month tour of duty in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The offload began at sunrise while the ship was in the northern Persian Gulf. CH-46 Helicopters took wave after wave of Marines, with their packs, rifles and gear, into Kuwait. The Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) crews of Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 hit the beach at Kuwait Naval Base loaded with the Marines' equipment. For three days, three attached LCACs shuttled the nine to 12 nautical mile ride between the ship and land.
The Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), headquartered at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are part of a 25,000 member air-and-ground task force that is contributing to the largest rotation of U.S. forces since World War II to help stabilize Iraq. The major II MEF units that offloaded from Bataan included 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and 8th Communications Battalion from Camp Lejeune and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167 from Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C. Smaller elements from other II MEF units also were launched from Bataan.
In the three-day offload, Bataan dropped off 413 short tons of cargo using LCACs and about 420,000 pounds of ammunition at the Kuwait Naval Base. Bataan's sister ship, USS Boxer (LHD 4) based out of San Diego, also deployed in Jan. to provide amphibious lift support for Marines. Boxer's offload commenced two days prior to Bataan's, and both ships offloaded ammunition into Kuwait in a joint effort on the final day of the offload.
Many Marines are ready to put to use the training they received day-in and day-out for the last three months. "I feel happy that we are actually going. We have prepared heavily for this mission, and now we get to go out and test ourselves in the real thing," said Marine Lance Cpl. Ferdinandson Schuyler of HMM-261.
The offload was a new challenge for Bataan's Combat Cargo Office. According to Senior Combat Cargo Assistant, Marine Master Sgt. Greg Stimmell, "This particular offload was not like any other offload, because the cargo was all break bulk (pallets, boxes and containers). This ship commonly deploys rolling stock, which includes vehicles and trailers," he said.
"Our Combat Cargo is more mission driven now than it ever has been. With the new world climate it's very important, now more than ever, that the Navy and Marine Corps team be flexible for any type of mission," added Stimmell.
Their forward presence in the northern Persian Gulf is not new for the crew of Bataan during their support of the war on terrorism. This is the ship's third deployment since Sept. 11, 2001. The ship left the Persian Gulf region in May after a six-month deployment where Bataan played the traditional role of an amphibious ship, transporting and off-loading Marines to fight the ground war.
The crew then shifted gears and reconfigured the ship into the East Coast's 'Harrier Carrier,' where they embarked 26 Harriers--the most in the history of the Navy--enabling them to provide close air support to Marines on the ground. Bataan stayed underway for five months straight, flying 135 flight days, 3,200 flight hours and 1,400 combat flight hours. Nine months prior to the 2003 deployment, Bataan returned from a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Bataan, 840 feet long and displacing more than 40,000 tons, is the fifth ship in the Wasp-class of multi-purpose amphibious assault ships.
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