With no Rota stop, the USS Kearsarge heads home
Stars and Stripes June 25, 2003
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is on its way home — again.
The ship is in the Atlantic Ocean cruising toward its homeport of Norfolk, Va., after its initial trip back was diverted to the western coast of Africa. The ship was originally slated to stop in Rota before it was diverted.
Earlier this month, the Kearsarge was on its way home from participating in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq when the Navy ordered it to turn around. The ship joined forces in Africa to participate in Operation Shining Express, a mission to aid in the potential evacuation of American citizens in war-torn Liberia.
At the request of the U.S. ambassador to Liberia and by orders of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the U.S. European Command sent troops to the region to help Americans who wished to leave. The troops were also to monitor the situation for a potential large-scale evacuation. It is unclear whether the Kearsarge actually evacuated any Americans during the mission.
The Kearsarge, equipped with helicopters and a large medical staff, gathered more personnel and equipment from other U.S. ships in the Atlantic before heading to western Africa.
The ship was ordered back to Virginia after a cease-fire agreement was reached in Liberia last week.
The ship and its 1,200 sailors plan to arrive in Norfolk on Monday. Before the homecoming, the crew will drop off more than 1,200 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Onslow Beach, N.C., on Saturday, the Navy said.
Less than two weeks before being diverted, the ship and its crew provided support for President Bush during his meetings with leaders in Jordan and Egypt. The Kearsarge also served as the flagship for Amphibious Task Force East, which deployed on short notice in January to support the war on terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Because of the Liberian mission, the ship will arrive home four days later than originally scheduled.