As a literal army of terrorists close in on the capital city of Iraq, the Obama Administration has already determined that any evacuation of the American embassy in Baghdad is too “politically sensitive” to take place anytime in the foreseen future, as reported by Fox News on June 13, 2014. Political sensitivities aside, the fact that the closest Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is roughly 1,000 miles away may also hamper any large scale evacuation. As reported by NBC News on June 15, 2014 and The Military Times on June 9, 2014, Barack Obama’s Department of Defense (DoD) has been heavy on moving fighter jets and guided missile ships into the Persian Gulf, but moving the region’s 1,000 Marines further way.
Ostensibly ordering into Persian Gulf waters to protect “American lives and interests in the region,” the super-carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) and also the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG-103) are more than capable of blowing opposing aircraft or vessels into very small burning pieces, none of the aforementioned warships were ever designed for amphibious operations or any other contingency resembling a massive evacuation of possibly hundreds of personnel in a hostile environment. However, the USS Bataan (LDH-5) was tailor made for that very mission.
While classified by the Navy as an amphibious assault ship, the Bataan is in reality a combination Harrier jet/helicopter aircraft carrier that also happens to have aboard a reinforced Marine Infantry Battalion. In this case, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Lejeune, NC.
To best describe to the uninitiated, the overall attitude of the Marine ground pounders could be best summed up in a letter from an Air Force member relating to the folks back home his first night at Afghanistan’s Kandahar Airbase, which stated in part:
It will not bother me should I live my entire life without having to kill a man but I have to say I’m glad to be surrounded by a thousand 19 year-old Marines who can’t wait to.
Unfortunately for those still in Baghdad’s famed Green Zone, the Rusty Nickle and her 1,000 Leathernecks are steaming toward Libyan waters to possibly rescue Americans from a renegade Libyan General stirring up hate and discontent in and around Tripoli, home to the US Embassy. While the number of Marines assigned to the US Embassy Baghdad is classified, it’s been estimated at no more than 100. The standard weaponry for those assigned to Marine Security Guard Battalion is a sidearm issued to each man, and a handful of shotguns deployed to strategic choke points within the compound.
As of press time, there has been no public announcement from the Pentagon if and when the USS Bataan and the 22d MEU will make full steam back towards the Persian Gulf. Undeniably, the sooner they do, the Baghdad Embassy staff and their families back home will rest much easier.