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Boats from Fort Eustis left Hampton Roads bound for Gaza

Soldiers and their families prepare for the USAV SP4 James A. Loux to leave for Gaza. March 12, 2024. Steve Walsh
Soldiers and their families prepare for the USAV SP4 James A. Loux to leave for Gaza. March 12, 2024. Steve Walsh

Roughly 100 soldiers from Joint Base Langley/Fort Eustis set sail for the Eastern Mediterranean Tuesday. Four ships led by the USAV SP4 James A. Loux left the dock at Fort Eustis mid-morning. 

A total of five Army boats are now underway as part of a group of 500 soldiers from the Army's 7th Transportation Brigade who are tasked with building a temporary pier to funnel much-needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Many of the other soldiers from Fort Eustis will fly out later. 

Brig. Gen. Brad Hinson said they can fulfill the president’s commitment to not put U.S troops in Gaza. 

“There will be no soldiers on the ground for the construction. That is a 100% true statement. And we can construct this pier without having U.S soldiers set foot on the beach or on the ground.“

It will take the boats roughly a month to reach the Eastern Mediterranean. Hinson said it will take another 30 days to construct the mobile pier off the coast. 

The operation will still require a partner on the ground to receive the aid, which hadn’t been determined at the time the ships left the dock Tuesday. The aid will also have to be inspected at a separate location, before being transferred to a mobile platform that can be ferried to the dock. 

The Army’s mobile pier system can supply up to 2 million bottles of water or meals per day, significantly more than the air drops currently underway. The army is able to run the operation indefinitely, Hinson said.

“We don't have a timeline. We'll be over there until they say we can go home,” he said. 

This is an army led mission, but the Navy will supply sailors and equipment from the Naval Beach Group 1 and the cargo ship USNS Roy Benavidez, to help with supplies.  

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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