MANAMA, Bahrain — Sailors and Marines from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan arrived in Bahrain Tuesday after an unusually lengthy 135 days at sea.
The Bataan, the flagship of the amphibious ready group, is on an eight-month deployment. The ship left its Norfolk, Virginia, homeport in February, with embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Much of the ship’s time has been spent in the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea area, where it has been poised for potential crisis response.
The ship will spend several days in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet. The visit comes a week after Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, was expelled from the Persian Gulf kingdom for allegedly interfering in domestic affairs. The incident appears to have had no impact on the U.S. Navy’s activities on the island.
For the roughly 1,800 sailors and Marines on the Bataan, many of them pouring onto Naval Support Activity Bahrain Tuesday evening, the diplomatic kerfuffle was far from their minds. Several told Stars and Stripes the base Taco Bell was their primary objective as they sought to break the routine of ship’s food.
“It’s almost unreal; I don’t actually feel like I’m really in port,” said Staff Sgt. Wayne Dufour, part of the embarked 22nd MEU on the Bataan.
The crew seemed overjoyed to be off the ship and on dry land.
“You’ve been on it so long it makes you feel like it’s home,” said Cpl. David Jones, also an embarked Marine. “It’s like I’m being introduced to the world again.”
But the port stay won’t be all rest and relaxation.
U.S. Navy officials said this is considered a “working port visit,” during which the crew will conduct routine middeployment maintenance best suited for an in-port period. Lt. Joe Hontz, U.S. 5th Fleet spokesman, said the Bataan’s sailors and Marines will have liberty while in Bahrain after the workday is complete.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the Bataan team to enjoy some well-deserved time away from the ship,” Hontz said.
Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials have organized afternoon sporting events and cultural tours of Bahrain for the Bataan’s sailors and Marines.
The ship has been busy during its deployment. In May, days into the ship’s participation in a large-scale annual multinational exercise in Jordan, it was ordered to the coast of Libya to be ready for a possible evacuation of U.S. personnel because of escalating fighting there. The ship left many Marines and much equipment behind in Jordan to complete the exercise. While near Libya on June 6, the Bataan rescued 282 people in the Mediterranean Sea while responding to a report of a sinking vessel.
Officials said the Bataan, along with the rest of the amphibious ready group, is currently tasked to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Bataan’s Marines, along with other assets from the 22nd MEU, have been conducting routine training throughout the Middle East.
USS Bataan Deployment Statistics
- 24,200 Nautical miles navigated.
- 3,000,000 gallons of fuel transferred.
- 10,000 tons of cargo and vehicles moved
- Beach landings in five countries
- Approximately 123,200 hours of Engineering watches stood
- 1,000 Evaluations and Fitness Reports processed
- 1,660 dental procedures conducted by the ship’s dental clinic
- 9,215 pounds of laundry processed
- 1,845 haircuts
- $289,288.05 in vending sales
Source: USS Bataan Public Affairs Office; Current as of June 10