USS Bataan leaves for 7-month deployment to Middle East and Mediterranean
By COURTNEY MABEUS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: March 4, 2017
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Breonna Jackson buried her face in Natasha Hyland’s embrace and sobbed into her shoulder.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had just pulled away from its pier at Naval Station Norfolk. The two women watched as their husbands’ ship slowly slipped away for their first deployments.
“Don’t make me cry,” Hyland said, her eyes red from crying herself, as she comforted Jackson.
The Bataan left Wednesday morning for a seven-month tour to the Middle East and Mediterranean. Its complement included Beach Master Unit Two 2 and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 4, both based in Virginia Beach; the Norfolk-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26; and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Its departure rounds out the ships that comprise the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The Norfolk-based amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach left Saturday.
Capt. Eric Pfister, commander of the Bataan, said he wasn’t sure what the 4,000 sailors and Marines in the group would face but added they are “well-trained and well-prepared for whatever they need us to do.”
“A lot of this is going to depend on the current events that come up,” Pfister said.
Tears were common among the few dozen family members who gathered on the pier, some before the sun was up, on an unseasonably warm morning.
Jackson balanced her two children, 2-year-old Kimmora and 6-month-old Kameron, on her hips while she spoke of her husband, Etienne Jackson, a seaman who works as a boatswain’s mate. She said she’d miss his silly personality.
“If you just look at him, he can just make you laugh,” she said.
Sky Morrison used the waning moments before the ship left to call her husband, Seaman Chris Morrison, who was deploying for the first time.
“I love you,” she said into her phone, adding, “Try to have fun.”
While some family members said they were adjusting to first deployments, others were adding one more to the list. But time apart doesn’t get much easier with experience.
The tables have turned for retired Petty Officer 1st Class Teresa Arnold of Chesapeake. She deployed on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in 2000 and 2002. Her son, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Arnold, was a child then. He’s 25 now, on his second deployment, and working in the same department his mother once served in.
“It’s not the same when he’s not here,” she said.
Things may not be the same when Airman Kyre Bond returns. His wife, Jasmine Bond, said they are expecting their first baby in late September. Bond said she wasn’t wasn’t sure if her husband would make it home in time for the birth.
“We’re just waiting to see,” she said.
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