Thousands of local Marines in Gulf as tensions rise with Iran
Roughly 3,000 sailors from Hampton Roads and Marines arrived in the Middle East as part of an effort to protect commercial shipping in the region, including training Marines to be placed on board vessels.
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group left Norfolk in July with Amphibious Squadron 8, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Assault Craft Unit 4, Beach Master Unit 2. The USS Carter Hall left from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek -Fort Story.
They carry Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The ships were part of an effort to counter Iranian forces in the region. The U.S has accused the Iranians of attacking or seizing over a dozen internationally flagged vessels over the past two years, including two in the last month. The ships were in the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz, where 20% of the world’s oil passes though.
The ships arrived in the Red Sea Sunday, though Marines from the 26th MEU were flown from Europe ahead of their arrival to train for a potential mission to be used on commercial vessels transiting the Straits of Hormuz.
According to a U.S official, the decision to train the Marines was made by top officials, but no decision has been made on whether to use the new embarked security teams. The U.S has had interest from the shipping industry to place Marines onboard ships as they make their way through the Gulf. Iranian officials have said the additional forces only add to tensions in the region.
The Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan can carry helicopters, MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the vertical take off Harrier attack jets, along with amphibious landing craft. Along with housing Marines, the Dock Landing Ship USS Carter Hall also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles and amphibious landing craft.
The two ships were rerouted to the Middle East by the Pentagon after being deployed.