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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is embarking on a potential new future for deployments as sailors and Marines leave on the first Expeditionary Strike Group.

The experimental ESG, which was to leave Friday from San Diego, essentially is an amphibious ready group on steroids; a surface action group beefed up with a submarine and maritime patrol aircraft, in addition to the Corps’ 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently certified as Special Operations Capable.

Because of ongoing military operations and obligations around the world, the 5,000 sailors and Marines have been told to prepare for a possible eight-month deployment instead of the typical six months.

“Sailors, Marines and family members of the Peleliu ESG have been told to be prepared for an eight-month deployment,” said Lt. j.g. David Luckett, a Navy spokesman. “As the Chief of Naval Operations has said, the Navy is not wed to traditional six-month, heel-to-toe deployments. One of the advantages of the naval forces is that our schedules and deployment times are very flexible, as evidenced by the recent surge of forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

“So, while the Navy is looking at a range of options for deployments to support the idea of presence with purpose, the current plan calls for the Peleliu ESG to be deployed for eight months,” Luckett added.

The sailors and Marines won’t earn additional pay for merely being deployed longer, but, if eligible and where applicable, will collect separation and danger pay for the length of time they are deployed.

“Because the operations in Iraq and in the Gulf affected our normal troop deployment, we had to adjust the scheduling, and that means a longer deployment for this ESG,” said Maj. Douglas Powell, a Marine Corps spokesman. “We have to have a presence out there, and because of what it takes to get a unit ready — a work up for six months to have those units rotate in — we had to bump this deployment out two months.”

The concept of the additional air and sea power of an ESG is to let sailors and Marines operate in shallow, narrow waterways as easily as in the open ocean, according to a Navy statement about the upcoming deployment.

“We have a joint operations center on USS Peleliu … that brings all the warfare commanders together on one ship along with the Marines,” Cmdr. Louis Meier, a battle group training coordinator, said in a statement. “All those things are now working together to form a synergy that expands the capabilities of the composite warfare system.”

The newly formed ESG-1 is made up of the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, the dock landing ship USS Germantown, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden added to the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal, guided missile destroyer USS Decatur, guided missile frigate USS Jarrett, and the fast-attack submarine USS Greeneville.

The idea for an Expeditionary Strike Group had been pushed from the Navy’s leadership since March 2002, when then-Navy Secretary Gordon England pushed for the larger-scale fighting group.

If all goes well, the Navy plans an expansion in which the Navy and Marine Corps will have two Pacific Fleet ESGs and one Atlantic Fleet ESG next year, the Navy statement said.

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