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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 276-97
May 30, 1997

NON-COMBATANT EVACUATION OPERATION FOR SIERRA LEONE

At the request of the State Department, Secretary of Defense Cohen has directed The U.S. European Command to begin conducting an ordered evacuation of American citizens and designated third country nationals from Sierra Leone tomorrow. This operation is called Noble Obelisk. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Kearsarge, which arrived off the coast of Sierra Leone today, will conduct the evacuation. Evacuees will be flown by helicopter from Freetown to the USS Kearsarge for a few days and then transported to Conakry, Guinea, for follow on transportation being arranged by the State Department to their final destinations.

The 22nd MEU is home ported at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and the USS Kearsarge is home ported in Norfolk, VA. Sierra Leone falls within the U.S. European Command's area of responsibility.

There is an 11-man Army Special Forces team, from 3rd Special Forces Group based at Ft. Bragg, N.C., in Freetown. This team, specially trained in sub-Saharan affairs had been conducting training with the Sierra Leone Army prior to the coup and is now assisting embassy staff and the Navy-Marine team with the non-combatant evacuation operation. .