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The USS Bataan arrives at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.
The USS Bataan arrives at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The Virginia-based amphibious assault ship USS Bataan is returning to the Persian Gulf seven months after returning from a deployment in support of the Iraq war.

The Navy also announced this week that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its strike group will deploy from its home port in Norfolk, Va., to support the global war on terrorism.

The Bataan’s main mission will be to deliver equipment in support of a Marine ground force that will replace Army troops in Iraq. The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer left San Diego for the Persian Gulf on Wednesday loaded with additional equipment, including helicopters, Humvees and fuel trucks.

It marked the beginning of the massive rotation of about 25,000 Marines, many of whom will arrive in Iraq by plane. The helicopter carriers and ships with the Military Sealift Command will make it possible to have their equipment waiting for them as soon as they arrive.

“There will be some Marines that do embark in support of the aviation equipment they have on board,” said 2nd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis of the Bataan’s Jan. 20 deployment. “And then they’ll both meet over in the region and you’ll have Marines and equipment all arriving on station.”

For some Bataan crewmembers, it will be déjà vu.

The ship returned to the United States on June 25 after a six-month deployment to the Northern Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, it will become one of the few ships to also be a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

During the war, the Bataan delivered Marines and equipment. During heavy fighting, it became known as the “Harrier Carrier” for serving as a launching pad to a record total of 24 of the jump jets in support of ground troops.

On this trip, the Bataan will support Marines from the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, headquartered at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The ship will carry two MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six, Detachment Two from Naval Station Norfolk, and three Landing Craft Air Cushioned hovercraft from Assault Craft Unit 4, based at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.

The Bataan is not expected to stay long overseas. The plan is for the ship to go to the Persian Gulf, drop off the equipment and about 300 Marines and return to Norfolk in the spring. On the way to the gulf, many ships typically stop in Rota for supplies before entering the Mediterranean Sea.

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