ITeam

American warships deployed offshore Syria

Monday, August 26, 2013

As the U.S. is on the brink of new military action in the Middle East, the ABC7 I-Team looks at the people and equipment the U.S. is putting in place for a response to what is happening in Syria.

On Monday night, four U.S. war ships are in place within cruise missile range of Syria; the Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and the White House now all making it clear to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that his government was behind the recent massive chemical weapons attack on his own people.

Whenever American military might is threatened, there are mothers and fathers and friends of service personnel eager for news about what may happen next and who will be involved.

This is the most likely response according to military experts: a tomahawk attack like the one from U.S.S. Barry that was fired on Libya in 2011.

It's perhaps no coincidence that that the Barry is now deployed offshore Syria, one of four American destroyers sailing in the eastern Mediterranean, each equipped with 90 surface-to-air and cruise missiles. One ship, the Mahan, was due to return to home base Virginia but has been kept near Syria.

The horrible chemical attack that left hundreds of women and children dead in the streets is the cause.

"This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all," said John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State.

"If there is any action taken it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification," said Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense.

There are several specially-trained chemical response units within the Illinois that undergo evacuation and medical field training, including this one in April. While some individual specialists could be called to assist in a Syrian mission, the state's main unit--the 444th Chemical Company-- just returned from Kuwait in December and is unlikely to be redeployed.

There is an aviation unit from Illinois currently in Kuwait: the 238th, about 60 airmen from here who could be support personnel for a Syrian operation.

In addition to the four destroyers in the Mediterranean, several nuclear-powered submarines believed to be in the water near Syria, also cruise-missile equipped.

And there are two aircraft carrier battle groups within a day's sail from the Red Sea. Every single sailor on all those ships has this in common: they all spent boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes near North Chicago.

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