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Marines and USS Wasp are in final work-up ahead of deployment

Marines pepper with tennis balls in mock evacuation at Camp Lejeune North Carolina. April 17, 2024. Steve Walsh
Marines pepper with tennis balls in mock evacuation at Camp Lejeune North Carolina. April 17, 2024. Steve Walsh

Marines at Camp Lejeune guard one of their headquarters buildings. For three weeks, the building will portray a U.S. embassy, complete with state department employees acting as embassy staff.

The Wasp Amphibious Ready Group and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are in their final weeks of training. They are conducting a mock evacuation of an embassy as 150 actors portraying protesters scream at the Marines and throw tennis balls.  

“This gives us a chance to practice the things that we can most likely expect,” said Lt. Col. Adam Coker is the Marines Executive Officer. “So a NEO, or a noncombatant evacuation operation, an embassy reinforcement, foreign humanitarian assistance, disaster relief — we've been doing all of that here.”

Marine landing craft from the USS Wasp arrived at Onslow Beach with food, trucks and other supplies. Maj. Mark Moore is in charge of the beach for the 24th MEU. He said they’re watching the conflict between Israel, Hamas and Iran. 

“We do watch the news. We also receive intelligence operations updates. We prepare to respond to any crisis,” he said.

This is the last exercise before the sailors and Marines deploy. It has been nearly a month since the USS Bataan and its Marines arrived back home in Norfolk from the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The amphibious ready group is still on schedule to leave for the Mediterranean sometime in May. The Marine officers at Camp Lejeune said the Pentagon has not changed the Wasp’s expected departure time, even after the drone and missile attacks by Iran followed by the strike by Israel. 

Chief of Naval Operations Lisa Franchetti announced last week that the Wasp could be delayed because of mechanical problems which have plagued amphibious warships.

The USS Boxer was delayed several months in San Diego and then had to return from a deployment after 10 days because of mechanical failures.

The Wasp also returned to port during an earlier exercise  because of mechanical issues.

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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