CAMP PENDLETON (CNS) - More than 2,200 Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Camp Pendleton early Thursday from a seven-month deployment, base officials said.
The returning troops spent the deployment in the Western Pacific, Middle East and Horn of Africa with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans, and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, according to MEU's public affairs office. The ships and their combined crews of about 1,700 are scheduled to pull into Naval Base San Diego Friday morning.
While away, the MEU participated in training exercises with various host nations.
"We were able to sharpen our skills while strengthening partnerships with our hosts," the MEU commanding officer, Col. Michael R. Hudson, said in a statement.
"From survival and jungle training in Cambodia and Malaysia to full-scale raids and live-fire exercises with counterparts throughout the Middle East and Horn of Africa, this deployment employed all the capabilities of our air-ground logistics team."
Hudson said the ships were able to put the Marines at three or four places at once at times during the deployment.
Though most of the MEU returned by helicopter or landing craft early Thursday, a small number remain aboard the ships returning Friday.
The ships are currently on a "Tiger Cruise," in which family and friends join the sailors for the ride home from Honolulu.
The 847-foot-long Makin Island is completing its maiden deployment, which began Nov. 14 and included several months in the Middle East over the winter.
The ship is named after a Pacific Ocean atoll raided by Marines in August 1942 during World War II. It is now known as Butaritari.
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