3 locally-based ships ordered to move into Persian Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP/WAVY) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde and the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to the Persian Gulf as the president considers possible military options for Iraq.

Rear Adm. John Kirby said the moves will give Obama additional flexibility if military action were required to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq.

Kirby released the following statement on USS Mesa Verde Monday morning:

“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde into the Arabian Gulf today. The ship has completed its transit through the Strait of Hormuz.

It’s presence in the Gulf adds to that of other U.S. naval ships already there — including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush — and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them.

USS Mesa Verde is capable of conducting a variety of quick reaction and crisis response operations. The ship carries a complement of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

USS Mesa Verde is part of the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, which departed Norfolk, Virginia, in February and is operating in the region on a routine deployment to support maritime security operations.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the USS George H.W. Bush from the northern Arabian Sea Saturday as President Barack Obama considered possible military options for Iraq. Hagel’s press secretary, Rear Adm. Kirby, said the move will give Obama additional flexibility if military action were required to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq.

Accompanying the ships will be the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. The ships, which carried Tomahawk missiles that could reach Iraq, were expected to complete their move into the Persian Gulf by the end of Saturday. The Bush’s fighter jets also could easily reach to Iraq.

USS George H.W. Bush posted the following on its Facebook page:

Message to friends and family members of George H.W. Bush Strike Group (GHWB CSG) from the Commander:

I’d like to start this message by thanking all of the friends and family members of Sailors attached to the GHWB CSG for their love and loyal support throughout this combat deployment. This deployment has already demonstrated the value of Naval Forces to our country and has reinforced the fact that your Navy and Marine Corps team is deployed globally where it matters, when it matters.

“Where it matters, when it matters” was demonstrated as we operated in the Mediterranean and Black Sea at the start of tensions in Ukraine and again was on display as we led the operation that returned a hijacked tanker to Libya. After we transited the Suez Canal and entered the Central Command’s Area of Responsibility, we immediately flexed to provide support to security teams in Afghanistan during their election which helped ensure that the citizens of Afghanistan could safely leave their homes and travel to polling stations in order to vote for their next president. Afghanistan just conducted a run-off election and once again, your Navy combat team was where it mattered, when it mattered as our support from the air resulted in record turn outs at the polls which marked a milestone in Afghanistan’s progress toward democracy and a peaceful transfer of executive leadership.

As soon as it became apparent that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were marching toward Baghdad, the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group was ordered to reposition to be “where it matters” and 30 hours later, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103) joined USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and USS Okane (DDG 77) in the Arabian Gulf, “where it matters, when it matters.” In times of crisis, Naval Forces operating forward are responsive and provide the decision space and options for the President. That’s why we’re here and that’s what we do. Carrier strike groups bring a physical and political presence that act as a deterrent, and when deterrence fails, we possess credible combat power that provides the assured joint access to fight and win.

The support you show your Sailor is felt out here and makes a significant difference. I couldn’t be more proud of our Navy family and our Sailors. I suspect that the decision to postpone George H.W. Bush’s next port visit may cause some concerns at home, especially with the friends and family members who were traveling to visit but I also trust that you fully understand.

Naval Forces demonstrate the Chief of Naval Operations’ tenets of Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready daily around the globe, and for us, the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, we embody our Flagship’s motto “Freedom at Work.” That’s why we’re here and that’s what we do.

Sincerely and God Bless,
Rear Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III
Commander, George H.W. Bush Strike Group

Islamic militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have captured large swaths of territory north of Baghdad. Their advance on the capital was sending food prices dramatically higher and prompting tighter security in the city of 7 million people.

In a phone call Saturday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. assistance “would only be successful if Iraqi leaders were willing to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to forge the national unity necessary to move the country forward and confront the threat of ISIL,” according to a statement by the State Department.

Kerry pointed to the importance of the Iraqi government ratifying election results without delay, adhering to its constitutionally mandated timeframe for forming a new government, and respecting the rights of all citizens as it fights against terrorism, the State Department said.

Amid sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite citizens, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for unity of all Iraqis. A Shiite, al-Maliki is widely resented by Sunnis for his perceived sectarian policies.

Kerry told Zebari that the U.S. was emphasizing with the international community as well as those in the region the threat posed by ISIL and the importance of coming to the aid of Iraq.

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