Navy ordered to prepare for attack on Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sat Dec 28 07:03:42 MST 2002

Date:  Fri Dec 27, 2002  9:00 pm

  AOL News: Pentagon Tells Navy to Ready for Iraq

WASHINGTON (Dec. 27) - The Pentagon has ordered the Navy to prepare two
aircraft carriers and two amphibious assault vessels for possible action in
Iraq, defense officials said Friday.

The orders, sent in the last two days, require the Navy to have the vessels
ready to sail to the seas around Iraq within 96 hours after a certain date,
the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. They declined to
specify that date.

The ships and the escorts of cruisers, destroyers and submarines, would
bring a powerful military force to the region, adding several warships,
scores of strike aircraft and roughly 2,500 Marines to the forces in the

If the order to sail is given, the USS George Washington battle group would
be sent from the Atlantic fleets, officials said. The George Washington
returned from the region on Dec. 20 and is best prepared for action.

The defense officials declined to say which amphibious assault groups are
most likely to be sent to conduct operations in Iraq. Those groups center on
a large, carrier-like vessel that can launch helicopters and carry Marines.

Already in the region is the carrier USS Constellation and the amphibious
assault ship USS Nassau, officials said.

In addition, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort is expected to put to sea
from its port in Baltimore next week and prepare for action, military
officials said Friday. It will be headed to Diego Garcia, a British island
in the Indian Ocean where the United States bases numerous military

The 1,000-bed floating hospital will initially sail with a crew of 61
civilian mariners and 225 Navy personnel, including enough doctors to
support two operating rooms, said Marge Holtz, spokeswoman for the Navy's
Military Sealift Command. Hundreds more will be flown to the ship as needed,
she said.

The white-painted vessel, marked with red crosses, is equipped to handle
combat casualties, including those injured in chemical or biological weapons
attacks, Holtz said.

It may leave as early as Monday, Holtz said.

12/27/02 15:16 EST

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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