Ships stop at Rota on way home from Liberia
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Two U.S. warships that participated in a peacekeeping mission in Liberia pulled into Rota for a pit stop on Wednesday before heading home.
The USS Carter Hall and the USS Nashville, both part of an amphibious ready group, are in southern Spain for three to four days so the 1,500 sailors and Marines aboard the ships can fix equipment, clean vehicles and get some rest and relaxation.
The Marines and sailors are near the end of what will be an eight-month deployment to the Middle East and Africa.
Many are counting the days until the moment they are reunited with friends and family in the United States. Both ships are home ported in Virginia.
“I’m just waiting to get this over with right here, however long it takes,” said Marine Cpl. Adam Reeder of the brief maintenance stop in Spain. “We’ll get this done and be on our way. I’m excited about seeing my family.”
The Carter Hall and Nashville left Liberia last weekend after the Pentagon diverted the ships to the region to help provide stability in the West African country. The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima will be the final ship to leave Liberian coast and is expected to reach Rota sometime next week, Navy officials said.
This past summer, African leaders had pressed the U.S. to send troops to Liberia to help with an international peacekeeping force. The White House debated sending troops for several weeks before sending the three ships to the coast of Liberia in August.
Although more than a thousand American troops were initially requested, fewer than 300 Marines went ashore. Fifty-five Marines from Naval Station Rota will remain in Monrovia to boost security at the U.S. Embassy.
Redder, a combat engineer, helped build guard shacks and bunkers in Liberia, which is recuperating from civil war and years of political turmoil.
“It was just a sorry situation when I went in,” he said. “When we left, it was a different situation. Things seemed to start to turn around. I’m glad America isn’t that way. It’s bad all in all. It’s really just a shame to see people live that way.”
Some Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Liberia this summer after fighting in Iraq in April.
Staff Sgt. Richard Pillsbury, 35, and Cpl. Eric Reis, 19, were part of a group of Marines flown to Mosul in northern Iraq for a mission in mid April. Hours after they arrived, they were shot at.
“I didn’t expect to get shot at the first day,” said, Reis, who just completed his first deployment.
Pillsbury, who has seen combat in Persian Gulf War I, said they were involved in an hour-long firefight but his unit did not take any casualties.
He said the highlight of this deployment is the fact that “we’re bringing everybody home.”