Originally created 01/25/03

Camp Lejeune ordered to send Marines to Persian Gulf; three ships also ordered deployed



CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- About 7,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune and soldiers and fighter pilots from North Carolina bases will leave soon for the Persian Gulf region in advance of possible war in Iraq, officials said Friday.

Three Virginia-based ships capable of carrying more than 3,000 Marines also received orders Friday to deploy, the Navy said.

The USS Ponce and USS Saipan pulled away Friday morning from the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Station. The USS Gunston Hall also received orders. Officials wouldn't say if they would carry the troops from Camp Lejeune.

The Camp Lejeune Marines will be part of a Carolina Marine Air-Ground Task Force that will include infantry, tanks, amphibious vehicles, supply specialists and aircraft, said base spokesman Sgt. Greg Thomas.

They will follow more than 1,000 other Marines from the base already sent to the Gulf region.

About 100 Marine reservists were called to active duty at Fort Knox, Ky., and shipped out Friday for Camp Lejeune.

At Fort Bragg, fewer than 1,000 soldiers from six units of the 18th Airborne Corps have received orders and will leave within the next two weeks, post spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman said. He would not give their number or destination.

The 18th Airborne Corps already has more than 13,000 troops involved in the war on terrorism.

At Seymour Johnson, also in North Carolina, all 4,500 members of the 4th Fighter Wing are on alert, base spokeswoman Lt. Beverly Mock said, but not all will head to the Gulf immediately. She declined to say how many would leave in the next few days.

Also Friday, the Army was readying details of an order that will halt all routine transfers of soldiers as the military buildup continues. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last month directed the Army and Marine Corps to issue "stop movement" orders, which allow the services to focus on mobilizing troops to the Persian Gulf rather than for routine changes in asssignments.

The Army's personnel office is finishing details on which soldiers would be allowed to complete transfers - such as those scheduled to move to bases overseas whose household goods are already being shipped, said Army spokesman Capt. Ben Kykendall.

A handful of family members watched from the pier Friday morning as the Ponce prepared to leave port.

Boatswain's Mate Jason Sandusky, 21, hugged his relatives before boarding.

"I'm just ready to go," he said.

On the Net:

Camp Lejeune: http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil