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Belleau Wood, Comstock to Return from Surge Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS041022-02
Release Date: 10/22/2004 6:36:00 AM

From Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 2,000 Sailors and Marines from USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) and USS Comstock (LSD 45) are slated to return to their homeport of San Diego Oct. 24, from a surge deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.

In late May of this year, Belleau Wood surge deployed as the centerpiece and flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, comprised of Belleau Wood, USS Denver (LPD 9), Comstock , USS Hopper (DDG 70), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Charlotte (SSN 766) and Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC).

Belleau Wood, Comstock and Denver arrived in the Persian Gulf in late June. As ESG 3, they assumed responsibilities of maritime security operations as Task Force 58.

Belleau Wood, Comstock and Denver departed U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet's (C5F) area of operations Sept. 14.

While operating in C5F, more than 60 combat sorties were flown off Belleau Wood's flight deck. Belleau Wood also helped save 12 crew members of an Indonesian vessel when the mariner's ship began to sink in the Persian Gulf. Belleau Wood, Comstock and Denver also successfully disembarked more than 2,000 Marines from the 11th MEU (SOC).

"WESTPAC 2004 will be remembered as one of Belleau Wood's most successful deployments to date," said Capt. Earl L. Gay, Belleau Wood's commanding officer. "Along with many other firsts, we were the first Expeditionary Strike Group to surge deploy in support of the global war on terrorism. We also performed the first cross deck of an ESG at sea, all while serving in a combat zone."

"These 'Devil Dogs' have met and exceeded in every mission with patriotism, dedications and excellence," Gay added.

Also returning home to Camp Pendleton Oct. 24 are three Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels assigned to ESG 3. They also deployed to the Persian Gulf under the command of Marine Brig. General Joseph V. Medina, the first Marine Corps officer to lead a Navy Strike Group under the Expeditionary Strike Group concept.

Working for Amphibious Squadron 5, the LCAC offloaded the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and their equipment in Kuwait in July. Following the offload, they remained on station in the Persian Gulf performing logistic support and security patrols for Iraqi oil platforms. They played a vital role in surveillance operations until relieved by USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Duluth (LPD 6) in early September.

The LCAC detachment performed several days of training operations with Hawaii-based Marines Oct. 11-13 before enjoying some well-earned liberty in Pearl Harbor.

The two amphibious ships and the LCAC detachment are returning home as an Amphibious Ready Group, led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 5, Capt. Jack Federoff, embarked aboard Belleau Wood.

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