U.S. begins experimental swap program for Fifth Fleet crews

Monday, August 30, 2004

ABU DHABI The U.S. Navy has launched a swap program for crews deployed with the Fifth Fleet.

Officials said the Fifth Fleet has launched what they termed an experimental crew swap initiative. They said the program was meant to ensure the return of Fifth Fleet sailors to their families in the United States every six months.

The initiative was launched in wake of an evacuation by the U.S. Navy and Defense Department of about 1,000 American dependents in Bahrain.

Despite the capture of Al Qaida insurgents in Bahrain, the Pentagon has not allowed the return of the dependents. A Pentagon school in Manama was preparing to reopen next week with about half of its enrollment.

Officials said sailors based at the Naval Station Ingleside in Texas have arrived in Bahrain for the crew swap. They said the sailors would remain for six months in Manama, the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet, and serve aboard mine-hunter and mine-sweeper ships.

Under the initiative, the USS Pelican, based at Naval Station Ingleside, would relieve sailors from the USS Cardinal. The Cardinal has been based in Bahrain.

Officials said the crew swap plan also increased U.S. forward naval presence in the Persian Gulf. They said this ensured the deployment of at least one ship at all times in Fifth Fleet area of operations.

Other Fifth Fleet ships that will swap crews will include the USS Pioneer, USS Champion and USS Heron. Officials said the swap will be completed over the next week.

The crew swap in Bahrain has been limited to the U.S. Navy's Mine Warfare Command. The Mine Warfare Command received approval in July from the Fleet Forces Command to begin crew swap rotations with navy vessels based in Manama. Officials said the next crew swap would take place in February 2005.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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