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New York Daily News
Marine Message To Osama: Bring It On; Leathernecks Gird For Action
by RICHARD SISK
September 30, 2001
WASHINGTON - A reinforced battalion of Marines aboard Navy warships steaming east and possibly into harm's way has a defiant motto aimed directly at the nation's enemies: "Bring it on."
"Everyone is just a little more stoked," Gunnery Sgt. Bert Boatright said in a Marine news report from the helicopter assault carrier Bataan.
Boatright said his leathernecks had trained "like a football team running our routes."
"Now it's the night of the game," he said. "And the varsity is taking the field. We're ready."
The Bataan is part of a three-ship Amphibious Ready Group sailing with the carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its battle group, which left Norfolk, Va., Sept. 19 with the sounds of "New York, New York" blaring from the ships' loudspeakers.
They originally were scheduled for routine deployment in the Mediterranean, but their mission and destination are now secret.
Part of growing force
The ships are major elements in the massive buildup of U.S. air, sea and land forces in the region ordered by President Bush since the Sept. 11 suicide attacks, which he has blamed on Osama Bin Laden's terror network.
The Roosevelt and its 70 combat aircraft could be ordered to join two carriers already on patrol in the Persian Gulf area and Arabian Sea, along with the carrier Kitty Hawk, which sailed from Japan last week.
Land-based fighter and attack jets, including B-52 bombers with wing racks laden with cruise missiles, also have been flying to the area on an "air bridge" of tanker refueling aircraft.
They will join more than 200 fixed-wing warplanes stationed at bases in the Gulf states and Turkey.
To carry the fight directly to Bin Laden, special operations units from all the services have been deployed and are on high alert at bases worldwide.
In a message to his sailors' families, Navy Capt. Martin Allard, skipper of the Bataan, warned them not to count on going to Europe to meet the ships at port calls, because "this is not a normal peacetime deployment."
"Our movements are classified," Allard said. "It is now time to do our jobs."
The 2,200 troops of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is billed as "special operations-capable," are supported by an array of CH-53 Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters for rapid movement ashore.
They also have with them several fixed-wing AV-8B Harrier jump jets.
As part of what the Marines call the nation's "911 Force," Lt. Col. Jerome Lynes, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, said his troops were ready for any mission.
"Our motto as a battalion landing team is, 'Bring it on,' " said Lynes, of Bridgewater, N.J. "They will show the world our American resolve."
He said that the Marines' focus "hasn't changed since Sept. 11, but we will carry in our hearts our national loss and stand ready to do something about it."
Below decks, Pvt. Dwayne Howard, a cook, said, "I'm a little nervous. After all, I'm human," but "we'll do whatever must be done, regardless of the mission."
Given the possibility that they might see action, the Marines were grateful for their final training on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques , where they coordinated their movements with naval gunfire and air support
Vieques training praised
On Vieques , the site of frequent protests against the Navy's presence, "we were truly able to master our craft," said 1st Lt. Troy Hadsall, air support element officer-in-charge.
"My Marines gained immeasurable experience and now exude the quiet confidence that I expect," Hadsall said.
"I tell my guys not to be concerned about the unknown," said Sgt. Robert Guzman, a bulk fuel specialist.
"Most of them are 18 and 19 years old, and I'm on my second enlistment," Guzman said.
"It's a bit scary sometimes, not knowing what you'll do tomorrow or the next day," he added. "But there comes a time when you remember why you're here and that is to do a job."
Although the Marines and sailors were primed for any mission, "we may do nothing more than scheduled exercises," Boatright said.
"We're ready for anything and just happy to serve our country," he said.