F-35B lands aboard USS Makin Island
A Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighter lands aboard the USS Makin Island off the coast of Somalia. Navy photo

The USS Makin Island and other San Diego-based warships are supporting the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia to staging areas in the Indian Ocean, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.

The repositioning of forces under Operation Octave Quartz was ordered by President Trump to fulfill campaign promises to wind-down foreign deployments in Afghanistan, Africa and Iraq.

The Defense Department said Marines operating from ships in the Indian Ocean will still be able to maintain pressure on Islamic extremists and support U.S. allies in the region.

The Makin Island amphibious ready group also includes the amphibious transport dock ships USS San Diego and USS Somerset as well as the unique expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a virtual floating Marine base that was built by NASSCO in San Diego.

“The arrival of the ARG/MEU and its significant combat capability demonstrates our resolve to support our partners and protect our forces through this transition,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander of the effort. ”This is a great example of how the United States can rapidly aggregate combat power to respond to emerging issues. We will look to leverage this inherent flexibility of the U.S. military in support of our future engagements in East Africa.”

The Makin Island carries F-35B stealth fighters, helicopters and Osprey tiltrotors, and the Woody Williams also supports flight operations. The total force in the area numbers 5,000 sailors and Maines.

“Our Navy and Marine Corps forces afloat off the coast of East Africa represents a premier crisis response force in the region,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Farrell Sullivan. “Together, alongside the Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, the (command group) is postured to provide a full spectrum of combat and logistics capabilities in support.”

MV-22B Osprey hovers
An MV-22B Osprey hovers near the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams in the Indian Ocean. Navy photo

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.