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The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and its strike group returned to the Middle East on Sunday to provide air support to ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a U.S. Navy press release. The carrier replaces the USS Nimitz.

The U.S. Navy has reduced its aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf region to a single carrier, a drawdown from the fall, during which two carriers were in the region following mounting tensions with Iran.

The Enterprise left its home port in Norfolk, Va., in early July with roughly 5,000 sailors aboard. With the other ships in the strike group, a total of around 7,500 sailors and Marines are part of the group.

Iraqi army to graduate first class of comandosThe Iraqi army is scheduled to graduate its first class of highly trained commandos in a ceremony Tuesday in southern Baghdad.

According to the U.S. military command in Baghdad, the ceremony will mark the graduation of the first Iraqi Security Forces Commando Course. Though the number of graduates was not released, military officials said 75 percent of the Iraqis who started the course dropped out — 50 percent after the first day of training.

The three-week course is designed to “produce highly skilled Iraqi soldiers ready and able to conduct air and ground assaults … soldiers learned, among other things, survival skills, weapons training, obstacle and confidence skills.”

Guard unit to deploy to Afghanistan in late ’07The 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the New York Army National Guard will deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to train the Afghan National Security Forces, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

Initial personnel will begin to deploy in late 2007, with the majority of the approximately 1,700 servicemembers deploying in mid-2008, according to DOD.

Headquarters elements of the 27th Brigade Combat Team will lead the units taking over Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII from the South Carolina National Guard’s 218th Brigade, the Guard said, the Associated Press reported.


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