WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa — The USS Fort McHenry and the USS Harpers Ferry, amphibious ships operating from Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan, are providing transportation and troop support for about 1,000 Hawaii-based Marines deployed to Okinawa who have received orders to the Middle East.

A spokesman for Hawaii Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay said the Marines are members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, according to The Associated Press. The unit has been in Okinawa since early July on a regularly scheduled six-month deployment.

Asked late last week by Stars and Stripes if Sasebo-based ships and/or Marines on Okinawa would deploy to the Middle East in the coming days, Japan-based Marine Corps officials and a spokesman for the Navy’s Amphibious Group One did not provide confirmation or comment.

However, Hawaii’s Staff Sgt. Jeff Middleton told the AP the Marines were scheduled to leave Monday for the Persian Gulf region. He said the orders from U.S. Central Command don’t specify whether the Marines will go to Iraq or Afghanistan, or how long they will remain deployed.

The Fort McHenry and Harpers Ferry were observed making their way pierside at White Beach Naval Facility on Saturday.

In the wire report, Middleton said only that the unit would be going to the Middle East to “join the war on terrorism.”

However, Marine Forces Pacific spokesman Chuck Little said Central Command requested that the Okinawa unit replace a similar unit that’s been in Afghanistan since February.

The deployment will boost the number of Hawaii troops in the Middle East to about 12,000, the AP report noted.

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