Amphibious assault vehicles from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit approach the well deck of the amphibious assault ship Bataan during an amphibious training exercise in July. The Bataan ARG's deployment in the 5th Fleet has been extended by three weeks. (MCC Tony Sisti/Navy)
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Sailors and Marines aboard the Bataan amphibious ready group have been extended 21 days, the service announced Sunday, a move that will keep the ARG in 5th Fleet while the Obama administration weighs its options for countering the Islamic State militants destabilizing the region.
Both the ARG and the Bush carrier strike group have been in the Persian Gulf for weeks, with the Bush launching sorties against IS targets in Iraq. The 22nd MEU’s AV-8B Harrier aircraft have been flying non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Iraq since Aug. 8, the Bataan said in Sunday news release.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the three-week extension Saturday. It affects amphibious assault ship Bataan, amphibious transport dock Mesa Verde and dock landing ship Gunston Hall, according to the press release.
The Bataan ARG, and the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, will remain in 5th Fleet until October, when it can turn over with the amphibious assault ship Makin Island, which is carrying the 11th MEU.
The Makin Island made a port visit in Singapore last week and elements of the 11th MEU are now engaged in Malaysia-United States Amphibious Exercise 2014, a bilateral exercise with the Malaysian Armed Forces.
“The Bataan ARG and 22nd MEU are being extended to assure a continuous ARG/MEU physical presence in the Arabian Gulf and uninterrupted support for potential tasking,” the Bataan said in the press release. “This extension provides time for USS Bataan’s relief, USS Makin Island and the embarked 11th MEU, to arrive on station for a ‘face-to-face’ turnover before Bataan departs for her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.”
The Bataan ARG left Hampton Roads, Virginia, Feb. 8 on what was then planned to be an eight-month cruise. They are a week away from entering their eighth month of deployment.