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Operation Safe Departure

Following continued strife in Eritrea in 1998, naval forces participated in OPERATION SAFE DEPARTURE, a non-combatant evacuation that resulted in the removal of 105 Americans and 67 third country nationals.

United States Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) safely evacuated 172 American citizens and third-country nationals from Asmara, Eritrea on 06 June 1998. The evacuation was conducted as a precautionary measure. Two Marine C-130 Hercules aircraft flew the evacuees from the airport in Asmara to Amman, Jordan, where the group was assured safety. All U.S. Marines of the evacuation force also departed Eritrea on the aircraft.

Of the 172 citizens evacuated, 105 were from the United States, 24 from Norway, 20 from Britain, eight from Canada, six from Eritrea, three from Ethiopia and Japan, and one from Mexico, Sweden, and Korea.

In conducting the evacuation, the 11th MEU(SOC) based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA, sent in a military support and liaison team, called the "Forward Command Element." The team was made up of 30 Marines and Sailors and included a small security element from the unit's ground combat element. The 11th MEU(SOC) was on a six-month deployment aboard the ships of the USS Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group, which includes USS Tarawa, USS Denver, and USS Mount Vernon. All of the ships are home ported in San Diego.

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