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More than 4,000 Marines and sailors extended on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea last month due to unrest in the Middle East are on their way home again, an official confirmed Monday.
The three-ship Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was ordered in mid-November to http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/11/marine-mideast-unrest-keeps-iwo-jima-arg-in-the-med-112012">remain in the Mediterranean as a crisis-response force in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility, officials said at the time. That decision came just after the naval force had left the Mediterranean for the United States to wrap up the planned eight-month deployment.
Military officials have not announced yet when the ships and the MEU will arrive home.
"They are currently scheduled to be home before the holidays," Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, a U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman in Norfolk, Va., said on Monday.
The ships amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, dock landing ship Gunston Hall and transport dock New York crossed through the Strait of Gibraltar late last week, according to 24th MEU photos distributed by the Defense Department.
The 2,200 Marines of the 24th MEU which includes Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion 24 left North Carolina on March 29 aboard the three Norfolk-based ships for a scheduled deployment.
The ARG spent about six months in the U.S. Central Command region, including the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf, and returned to the Mediterranean in November.