35,000 more U.S. troops heading to Persian Gulf

Marines make up half of force being deployed

January 11, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a deployment order yesterday sending about 35,000 new troops, half of them Marines, to the Persian Gulf region, Pentagon and military officials said.

The detailed order, described as several dozen pages long, involved the largest number of military personnel yet as the Pentagon masses troops, warships and aircraft around Iraq to pressure President Saddam Hussein to disarm - and to prepare for attack, should President Bush order the nation to war.

By including about 17,500 Marines, the order sends a significant number of the military's mobile and hard-hitting ground troops - who travel with attack planes and helicopters - toward Iraq.

The order also includes pilots, mechanics, additional warplanes, combat engineers, logistics support and loading crews, senior officials said.

For the Marines, the deployment order includes two amphibious task forces, parts of a Marine division, support personnel, and a number of attack planes and helicopters, officials said.

Army combat personnel were also deployed in the order, including air defense units, two aviation companies of combat and support helicopters, and medical personnel, civil affairs officers and engineers.

The order signed yesterday by Rumsfeld covered more personnel than one he approved just before Christmas, which deployed 20,000 to 25,000 people, including the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

Senior officials said that when troops covered by these two deployment orders were combined with military personnel in the region, the Pentagon would have a land, naval and air force of more than 100,000 people by the end of this month.

At Camp Pendleton, Calif., home of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, a spokesman said late yesterday that troops had not yet received official notification of a deployment. But officials there said convoys of military vehicles were moving toward the port at San Diego yesterday. "This is a repositioning of our Marine expeditionary forces," a spokesman said. "It is to give maximum flexibility to the Marines."

On the opposite coast, a spokesman at Camp Lejeune, N.C., home of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, said about 7,000 Marines there had received authorization to embark on Navy ships. The spokesman said the Marines were gathering personal gear and preparing to board ships.

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