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Added Forces Strengthen Horn of Africa Task Force

American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, June 13, 2003 – Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa recently welcomed the three-ship USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the guided missile frigate USS Gary in the Gulf of Aden.

The task force headquarters was formed in late 2002 to oversee CENTCOM operations in the Horn of Africa in support of the war on terrorism. The task force's mission is to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorist groups in the region and to support coalition partner efforts to deny opportunity for re-emergence of terrorist networks in the Horn of Africa.

The amphibious group brings nearly 2,000 sailors total to the Horn of Africa region aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, amphibious transport ship USS Nashville and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall. The ships are homeported in the Norfolk, Va., area.

Also, the group's presence puts more than 2,100 Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) on hand.

The Gary, out of Yokosuka, Japan, complements the capabilities of Combined Task Force 150, the German-led maritime coalition flotilla currently patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Gary most recently supported operations in and around the Persian Gulf in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

In addition to escorting duties, the Gary brings a variety of missile, gun and anti-air early-warning radar technologies to existing Horn of Africa plans, which cover the total air, land and coastal waters of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen.

In May, before arriving in the Gulf of Aden aboard the Iwo Jima group, the Marine unit took part in exercises with the ministry of defense for Albania. Before that, 26th saw action in northern Iraq near the town of Mosul in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A battalion landing team forms the core ground combat element for this expeditionary unit, with infantry forces and weapon systems reinforced with light armored vehicles, artillery, and amphibious assault vehicles.

The 26th also brings a composite squadron that includes several helicopter models: the CH-53E Super Stallion equipment and supply transport, CH-46 Sea Knight cargo and troop transport, UH-1N Huey command and control platform and AH-1W Cobra attack gun ship.

For fixed-wing sorties, the Marine unit has vertical take-off and landing AV-8B Harrier jets to complement the Air Force F-15C/D and F-16C/D fighters, and E-3C airborne warning and control system and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft currently operating in the CENTCOM area. The 26th also has its own air-traffic control squadron and low-altitude air defense capability, both of which can be land- based in forward operating positions.

To support operations in remote, expeditionary environments, the unit employs a combat service support group for site preparation and force sustaining activities.

The 26th previously participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from November 2001 to February 2002, and follows both the 22d and 24th Marine Expeditionary units, which trained and supported counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa region.

The Iwo Jima group, in addition to its force transport and sea-based aviation platform role, offers a variety of capabilities to commanders in the Horn of Africa region. The at-sea headquarters includes communications suites capable of providing simultaneous offshore, ashore and aerial command and control of operations, as well as both air and sea search capabilities.

Recently, more than 300 other forces have arrived from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, Miami; the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; and the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, New River, N.C.

Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson took over command of the combined joint task force on May 24 from Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, who stood up the headquarters and steamed it aboard the flagship USS Mount Whitney to the Horn of Africa region in December 2002. Sattler oversaw the transition of the headquarters to its current location at Camp Lemonier in early May.

Among his previous assignments, Robeson served as the first deputy commander of the 4th Martine Expeditionary Brigade, an antiterrorism force established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was military assistant to the secretary of defense from 1998 to 2000.

(From Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa press releases.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTwo Marine AV-8B Harrier jets touched down briefly at the International Airport of Djibouti during recent training. With the arrival of the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, the Harriers are added resources for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's counterterrorism mission. Photo by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi, USMC.  
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