As of Wednesday, two carrier strike groups, an amphibious ready group, a Marine expeditionary unit and 2,000 to-be-determined troops make up the U.S. military’s response to Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
The units, which have not all been alerted, will soon be moved to a 24-hour recall status, meaning they will ready themselves to deploy within a day if the order is given by the White House, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told Military Times on Tuesday.
In the mean time, the Ford and Eisenhower carrier strike groups will soon be together in the eastern Mediterranean, along with the amphibious assault ship Bataan, its ready group and the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which left Kuwait days after Hamas’ initial attack on Israel.
Though non-combatant evacuations are one of the 26th MEU’s missions, Singh said during a briefing Tuesday that the Marines haven’t been tasked with anything yet.
“They are there so that [if] the [defense] secretary and the president make a decision that they are needed, they are in the region, but I’m not going to get into specific operational details at this time,” she said.
Ford left for its first deployment in May and had been scheduled to return to Norfolk in November when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved an extension of its deployment on Tuesday.
Singh could not say specifically how long the Ford carrier strike group’s deployment has been extended, adding, “My sense is that it’s going to keep being reevaluated, so I would say it’s open-ended right now.”
The carrier Ford is set to be joined by the Eisenhower carrier strike group, which set out from Norfolk on Saturday.
The moves are reminiscent of the early days and weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when the U.S. mobilized roughly 20,000 troops around eastern and central Europe to reassure NATO countries that the U.S. would be there if Russia crossed the line beyond Ukraine.
Nearly two years later, many of those troops are still in place, having rotated in an out several times. The U.S. has also set up a command in Germany to oversee training of Ukrainians.
Singh said that though the troop moves are intended to deter any other groups from striking Israel during its war against Hamas, as it did to deter Russia in Europe back in early 2022, the Defense Department hasn’t set any timelines for how long the increased posture could last.
“I wouldn’t say that anything has been committed right now,” she told Military Times. “I think it’s too early to say.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.