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Iwo Jima ARG Deploys in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom

Navy NewStand

Story Number: NNS030305-10
Release Date: 3/5/2003 11:25:00 PM

By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Bill Houlihan, USS Iwo Jima Public Affairs

ABOARD USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) steamed out of Norfolk March 4 for the ship's maiden deployment.

USS Nashville (LPD 13) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) also left as part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG), commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 6, Capt. David Taylor.

"We've been preparing for this day for nearly a year," said Taylor. "These Sailors on Iwo, Nashville and Carter Hall know that no matter what is thrown at them, our training has prepared us to deal with it. They're ready to go, and they know they're ready."

The three amphibious ships will join approximately 45 other Tidewater-based ships already deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Traveling with the nearly 2,000 Sailors assigned to the Iwo ARG will be the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Iwo Jima was commissioned in June 2001, and the crew has undergone rigorous training, qualifications and work-up cycles to prepare for what could be a journey into harm's way. "This crew is ready," said Iwo Commanding Officer Capt. John W. Snedeker Jr. "This crew is highly motivated, very focused and ready to join our shipmates forward-deployed overseas."

As a result of the rapid deployment of several amphibious Norfolk-based assets, Iwo ARG Sailors and Marines may find themselves in a position to spend more than eight months underway, two months greater than the traditional six-month deployment. When he addressed his crew, Snedeker told them the days of 180-day Mediterranean cruises were luxuries of the past.

"This is not a cruise," he stressed. "We are going on a deployment. We should all expect to stay for as long as it takes to get the job done. That could mean eight months. It could mean longer."

And, according to one 1st class petty officer assigned to Iwo, the chance to finally put the ship through its paces is exciting enough. But to do so in what could be war-time conditions is a culmination of two years of hard work. "We built this ship," said Damage Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Jim Harrison. "We built it, and we've trained to fight it and protect it. Now it's time to put all those skills to use. We've got a young crew (less than 30 percent have deployed), but they're ready."

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