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Defense Secretary visiting Naval Base Kitsap to see off 5,500 sailors

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Aug. 21, 2012 at 11:23 am |
August 21, 2012 11:23 am
The Bremerton-based USS John C. Stennis is shown here during a 2011 deployment to the Persian Gulf. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Wayman)

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tomorrow plans to visit Naval Base Kitsap to meet with sailors deploying to the Persian Gulf four months earlier than they expected.

The strike group of the USS John C. Stennis returned from its most recent deployment in March and anticipated another mission to the Persian Gulf at the end of this year. The Pentagon in July accelerated that timeline to maintain an enhanced carrier presence there.

That decision meant 5,500 families in the Stennis group had a little less time at home with their families.

In July, Pentagon spokesman George Little said the Defense Department sped up the timeline at the request of Central Command senior officer Marine Gen. James Mattis. Little said the decision did not reflect a specific threat from a nation, such as Iran.

“The decision will help support existing naval force requirements in the Middle East and reduce the gap caused by the upcoming departure of the USS Enterprise Strike Group,” Little said at the time. “It is in keeping with our long-standing commitments to the region.”

Panetta is not expected to visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord during his trip to the Puget Sound.

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