Military: Bahrain now unaccompanied tour
U.S. military personnel with orders to Bahrain must now go without their families because of the threat of terror attacks.
The military decided earlier this month that the nearly 1,000 family members ordered to evacuate the small Persian Gulf country in mid-July will not be able to return and must move to a new place. Sailors stationed in Bahrain must serve the remainder of their original tour length or complete a one-year stint without their family.
New arrivals will serve 12-month “unaccompanied” tours.
The new policy is indefinite.
“Ultimately, we may never have families in Bahrain, but I think it’s premature to say that,” said Navy Cmdr. James Graybeal, spokesman for the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is headquartered in Manama.
Families were told Sept. 2 that they had to find a new place to live by Sept. 12. They have 30 days to move to their new home. The Navy had initially told them that the evacuation would last at least 30 days and it was possible that they might return.
Families have several options on where they can live. Some are living closer to relatives, while others near the end of their tour in Bahrain have already moved to their spouse’s next duty station, Graybeal said.
The move affects about 940 family members.
Although sailors can take their families to most shore bases, there are a few bases where families are not allowed. For example, military personnel cannot take their families on tours of duty to Diego Garcia, a British island territory in the Indian Ocean.
Navy families were told to leave Bahrain in July around the same time the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens planning to go to the country.
Families in the next several weeks have the tough task of moving without their spouse. Many hastily left Bahrain with only what they could carry. The Navy is in the process of transferring household goods and other personal items the families brought with them to Bahrain for the assignment, Graybeal said.
The base’s elementary and high school reopened this school year but with fewer students and teachers.
Bahrain is home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees ships and submarines operating in the Middle East region. American warships have rotated in and out of the country’s ports for decades, and Bahrain opened its ports to the Pentagon during both Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom last year.
The military is currently discussing the future of the base in Bahrain and how it might figure into the Pentagon’s long-term needs and plans, Graybeal said.