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U.S. Service Members Heading Toward Gulf Region

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2003 – Thousands of American service members are deploying to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

The largest deployment is that of the Army's 16,500-man 3rd Infantry Division to Kuwait.

The division's 2nd Brigade is already in Kuwait. The 3rd Brigade, based at Fort Benning, Ga., flies out this week for Southwest Asia. The 1st Brigade, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., aviation assets and other support elements will follow later this month.

The Army troops will draw pre-positioned equipment in the region and be ready for any eventuality, DoD officials said. Certain division assets must be shipped to the region, however. Helicopters and certain other pieces of equipment will be shipped from Georgia and South Carolina, officials said.

Some 3,500 sailors and Marines of the Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group left San Diego Jan. 6. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will join almost 1,000 members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force already in the region. The amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa and the dock landing ships USS Mount Vernon and USS Rushmore form the core of the ready group.

The Air Force is also deploying personnel and aircraft to the region. Some base officials would release the numbers of personnel involved in the deployments, while others would say only the types of aircraft deploying.

About 400 airmen from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va., will deploy with F-15Cs.

Moody Air Force Base, S.C., is deploying HH-60 helicopters and C-130 airlifters to the region.

The 4th Fighter Wing of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., will deploy with F-15Es to Southwest Asia.

About 100 airmen from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., will deploy with 15th Reconnaissance Squadron (Predator unmanned aerial vehicles), the 58th Rescue Squadron and the 66th Rescue Squadron.

The 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., will deploy about half its B-1B bombers and "500-plus people" beginning this week.

Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft from Robins Air Force Base, Ga., will deploy to the region, as will F-16CJ "Wild Weasels" from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Special operations aircraft, such as AC-130 gunships, MC- 130 Combat Talons and MH-53 helicopters, will deploy from Hurlburt Field, Fla.

In addition, KC-10 and KC-135 tankers from around the world will support the effort, Air Force officials said.

More deployment announcements are expected, said DoD officials.

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