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4,500 Marines, Sailors Deploy With USS Boxer Group From San Diego

The Marines and sailors will work together on various missions during the seven-month deployment to the Middle East and Asia Pacific region, including disaster relief and embassy and security evacuations.

About 4,500 Marines and sailors left San Diego Friday morning aboard three combat ships that will take them to the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region.

The combat-ready service members are assigned to the 13th Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton and the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group. The force includes ground combat troops, helicopter squadrons and assault aircraft teams.

The routine deployment comes amid rising tensions across the globe and calls by the Pentagon for more troops in Iraq.

“There’s always that potential when we deploy our sailors and Marines to these dangerous areas that they will have to engage, that they will have to interact,” said Navy spokeswoman Dawn Stankus.

The troops will work together on various missions during the seven-month deployment, including disaster relief and embassy and security evacuations.

“The main reason for the sailors and Marines to be there is to provide that forward presence and that deterrent, so that in case something would occur we can respond in a timely manner,” Stankus said.

Col. Anthony Henderson, commander of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said 60 percent of his force will be experiencing their first deployment on a Navy ship. The crew has spent the past seven months in intense training, including working with their sailor counterparts.

"Any type of operation, we're able to do it as one team and that's the critical strength we bring for our nation," he said. "We start off separate, the Navy goes to sea and does the work on ships and basic seamanship and we go to the field and we do basic Marine Corps training. The key is when we come together as a Navy-Marine Corps team on these ships."

Capt. Keith Moore, commodore of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, said the servicemembers are in for an experience of a lifetime.

"We've trained, we're mission ready, they're focused and we're going to go out and execute missions, protect the American ideals and we're also going to have some fun," he said.

The San Diego-based service members will replace an East Coast team, the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has conducted airstrikes against so-called ISIS, held training operations with other nations and performed security operations throughout the Pacific.

Hundreds of family and friends are expected to gather Friday morning at Naval Station San Diego at 32nd Street to bid farewell to the departing crew.

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