ABOARD THE USS Bataan – The men and women of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit had barely unpacked their bags before the call came to deploy to Haiti. They just returned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina five weeks ago, after a seven-month overseas deployment running training missions in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Many were still on leave when they were asked to return to base, and get ready to deploy once again.
Cpl. James Beil tells us he had just grown accustomed to the idea of having his family around again.
"This was a pretty quick turn-around," he said as he bounced his five-month-old son in his arms. "And I don't really know what to expect on this one."
None of the Marines know quite what to anticipate when they arrive in Haiti, at this point. Their exact mission at this writing is still unclear. They are trained for any number of capabilities – everything from providing security to dispersing aid. They just don't know which they'll be called upon to do upon arrival.
Capt. Clark Carpenter of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit says his unit's strength lies in its breadth of capabilities.
"In a sense it's like a Swiss Army knife," said Carpenter. "We have that sharp blade for combat, we have that spoon or that fork to provide humanitarian relief, and we have the tweezers that we can use to go out and pluck out the bad guy in a precision raid."
But within 48 hours of being mobilized, they were on the move. The USS Bataan left Naval Station Norfolk at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and set out for Haiti. The amphibious assault ship, as well as three amphibious dock ships, will carry the Marines and relief supplies down to the earthquake-ravaged nation.
The journey should take two to three days, and their mission should be clarified over that time. Until then, the Marines in this unit say they are ready to do whatever is necessary.