Navy, Marine Unit Deploys to Pakistan
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.
26th MEU Public Affairs
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Aug. 30, 2010 Time became something of a commodity for Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit here as they prepared to deploy a month early aboard the ships of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.
The ships left the docks at Naval Station Norfolk this week responding to an order by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to depart before the end of the month to support flood relief efforts in Pakistan. The group is bringing heavy- and medium-lift aircraft and other assets. The group is expected to arrive in the Pakistan vicinity in late September.
"This is an opportunity for 26th MEU Marines and sailors to help a key partner nation," said Marine Corps Col. Mark J. Desens, commanding officer of 26th MEU. "We have a versatile and flexible force that we will use to alleviate suffering of the Pakistani citizens affected by this disaster."
After assisting in Pakistan, the 26th MEU will continue its regularly scheduled deployment, which will last more than two months longer than a traditional seven-month deployment.
The 26th MEU had just completed its deployment-certification exercise Aug. 10 when it received the notification that it might be called upon to support the Pakistan flood relief mission. When confirmation arrived a few days later, the Marines had just two weeks to finalize preparation for deployment. Much of the gear had to be off loaded and re-packed at Camp Lejeune for deployment and the assigned mission. The MEU completed training requirements and finalized arrangements for the families and personal effects of nearly 2,400 Marines and sailors.
The sailors and Marines are prepared for their deployment, Desens said.
"We've had a very successful pre-deployment training period," he said. "Leaving our families early isn't easy, but we are ready to deploy and put into practice the skills we've worked so hard to perfect. Our mission in Pakistan is a noble one, and it's an honorable way to begin this deployment."