Deployed San Diego-based ships in the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and Makin Island groups are now in the Middle East, the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Central Command announced Tuesday.
The sailors, Marines and airmen aboard the ships arrive after Iranian officials' recent threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for the world's oil supply, and warned a departing U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, not to return to the Persian Gulf.
Iran also handed down a death sentence for a former Marine who the Iranian government claims was a U.S. spy.
American officials said Amir Mirza Hekmati was simply visiting family.
The Vinson group – which also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey, and Carrier Air Wing 17 – and will support Operation Enduring Freedom, conduct maritime security operations and train with other navies in the region.
“We will work closely with our regional partners to demonstrate our commitment to security and stability in the region,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Shannon. “Our arrival in Fifth Fleet represents our commitment to stand by our partners, friends and allies, and protect the free flow of commerce in the region.”
The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group includes the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor. Aboard the vessels is the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
They also departed San Diego in November.
The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area encompass approximately 2.5 million square miles, including the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, parts of the Indian Ocean and 20 countries.
City News Service contributed to this report.