Posted at 12:10 p.m., Friday, August 29, 2003
U.S. forces anxious to deploy
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Wallace of the USS Paul Hamilton helps tie the USS Peleliu to pier at Pearl Harbor.
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
Expeditionary Strike Group One left San Diego last week, and when it sails for the Western Pacific sometime Monday it will be joined by the Hawai'i-based cruiser USS Port Royal and the attack submarine USS Greeneville. The group combines fast-moving and missile-laden Navy ships with Marines and aircraft, including AV8-B Harrier jets and AH-1 Cobra gunships.
In all, 5,000 sailors and Marines will deploy for about eight months, which is two months longer than the average overseas deployment.
"Nobody wants to be away from home, but a lot of our brothers-in-arms are going to have been deployed for nearly a year and there is business that needs to be done," said Maj. Kent Simon, a Marine assigned to the Navy's amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu. "It's our turn and it's our job."
The Peleliu is the flagship of the group and the floating home to most of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton. There are about 1,200 Marines and roughly the same number of sailors on board.
Simon, a Marine for nearly 15 years, said the long deployment is tempered by the challenges of this experimental military combination. He has a wife and two step-children back in California.
"There's profound excitement and there's some personal sadness," he said, as he stood inside the Peleliu's cavernous hangar. "These Marines busted their butts to be able to do this."
Security reasons prevent the military from saying exactly where the group is headed, but its "area of responsibility" will include the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf and Iraq.
Like many of the Marines, Capt. Bill Pelletier watched buddies go off to fight the war in Iraq and felt a twinge of envy. Now that it's his turn, the intensity is palpable. Two days of liberty in Hawai'i won't change that.
"The intensity is ratcheted up all the time because of the possibility of imminent action," Pelletier said. "I've been on several overseas deployments but this is the first time for me to go and be looking for a fight."
As the Marines and sailors milled about the hanger, a banner high on a wall was never out of sight. Between a picture of an American eagle and a burning World Trade Center, was written: "Peace and Freedom Will Prevail. We will not waver. We will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail."
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeff Galon, a 21-year-old hospital corpsman from Wai'anae, was thrilled to be home, even if it was for two days. He wants a change from Navy food, a plate lunch before he leaves "to see the world."
"You just have to wake up every morning and be motivated and when it's hard, just put a smile on your face," Galon said. "It's going to be really long. You have to prepare yourself mentally."
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8012.