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USS Bataan To Return From Operation Iraqi Freedom

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040326-11

Release Date: 3/26/2004 3:56:00 PM

By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Dave Fitz, USS Bataan Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BATAAN (NNS) -- The Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) will return to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk March 31, after a 72-day underway period in support of the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) troop rotation.

This is the second stint of duty in support of OIF for Bataan, which returned from an OIF deployment in June.

During this mission, the crew offloaded Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), along with their equipment and ammunition, into Kuwait in order to help stabilize Iraq. The Marines and equipment were part of a 25,000 member air-and-ground task force that contributed to the largest rotation of U.S. forces since World War II.

During the three-day offload in February, the "Big 5" dropped off 413 short tons of cargo and more than 42,000 pounds of ammunition using Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) crews from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 into Kuwait Naval Base. Thirty-nine rotary-wing aircraft based out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., launched off Bataan into Kuwait.

"This crew is always ready to answer the call, no matter the mission," said Capt. Nora W. Tyson, USS Bataan's Commanding Officer. "They are proud to serve their country, and Sailors are always at their best when they are out there doing the mission to the best of their ability."

Bataan has been one of the busiest ships in the fleet since September 2001, deploying three separate times. Of the last 31 months that the ship and crew have been away from homeport, they have been deployed nearly half of that time in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Force, Swift Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

The ship's role and mission has been different each year. For Enduring Freedom, Bataan operated as the centerpiece of a traditional amphibious ready group to support operations in Afghanistan. Last year, for OIF, Bataan deployed as one of the three "big decks" and seven total amphibious ships which comprised Amphibious Task Force (ATF) East. During that period, she functioned primarily as a "Harrier Carrier," where she embarked 26 Harrier aircraft, the most in the history of the Navy on an amphibious ship, to provide close air support to Marines on the ground in Iraq.

"With the global war on terrorism, things change on very short notice," Tyson said. "This crew has lived through that and understands what it means to pack their bags and go on short notice. The crew is very proud that USS Bataan is always the ship that is called upon."

After leaving the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, the crew enjoyed port visits to Valletta, Malta, and Rota, Spain. During their visits, more than 580 personnel enjoyed 19 different Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored tours to fully experience the culture and history of the two countries. Bataan also conducted highly successful community relations projects at each location.

Highlights of the ship's underway time included 57 personnel earning the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin and 37 earning the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin. Ten officers qualified as Surface Warfare Officers and 11 as underway Officer of the Deck. Additionally, five crew members earned their Engineering Officer of the Watch qualifications. The ship traveled more than 18,000 nautical miles and transited the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The ship also transited the Suez Canal twice during the deployment.

The ship embarked the following units for this underway period: ACU-4, Beachmaster Unit 2, Helicopter Combat Support Squadrons (HC) 6 and 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21 and Fleet Surgical Team 2. Bataan's crew complement is more than 1,200 personnel.

Bataan's next milestone is to complete the Board of Inspection and Survey scheduled for April. Bataan, 844 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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