The guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay is departing San Diego for an eight-month deployment to the Middle East as part of the Stennis Carrier Strike Group.
The USS John C. Stennis left its homeport of Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state on Monday, and is en route to San Diego to pick up the Mobile Bay, Carrier Air Wing 9, and Destroyer Squadron 21, according to KMAS.
Last month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the Stennis Strike Group to deploy four months ahead of schedule. As Home Post reported then, Panetta said his decision was prompted by the USS Enterprise leaving the Persian Gulf early, and a desire to keep a strong Navy force in the Middle East.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters when the pushed-up deployment was announced:
"[T[his is a very important region for our defense strategy. We've had a presence in the region for decades and we have a range of interests that this extension of our capabilities will support."