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Somali pirates, beware: Three Navy ships deploy from San Diego

November 14, 2011 |  3:18 pm


The three Navy ships of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group deployed Monday from San Diego for a seven-month mission to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf region.

Aboard the ships are 1,200 Marines from the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Marines and sailors are set to train with U.S. allies and be prepared to rapidly respond to any orders from the commander in chief, including possibly putting Marines ashore for combat or providing humanitarian assistance if a nation is struck by an earthquake or other natural disaster.

The sailors and Marines will also be involved in the anti-piracy efforts of a coalition of nations. The Marines have had training specifically targeted at boarding and seizing pirate boats that prey on merchant vessels, said Col. Michael Hudson, commander of the 11th MEU.

"If I were a Somali pirate, I'd be looking for a different line of work," said Capt. Humberto Quintanilla, commodore of the three-ship flotilla: the amphibious assault ship Makin Island, amphibious dock landing ship Pearl Harbor, and amphibious transport dock ship New Orleans.

The voyage is the maiden deployment for the Makin Island, equipped with new technology akin to that of a hybrid car so that the ship uses 60% less fuel than ships of the same class.

On the pier at the 32nd Street Naval Base were hundreds of family members saying goodbye. Some families have been through multiple deployments; for some families, it is a new experience.

For the Salas family, it was a little bit of both.

Marine Sgt. Vito Salas was there with his children: 1-year old Xavier and 2-year old Tayanna. He has been deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

But on Monday, Salas, 26, was there to wave goodbye to his wife, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Unalato Salas, 23, leaving on her first deployment.

"We'll miss her," Salas said quietly.


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Photo: Jovanna Guillen and fiance Tony DeLuca embrace before he deploys as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times