Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group deploys to the Middle East

SAN DIEGO -- The amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset, named after the Pennsylvania county where a United Airlines jet crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, is scheduled to begin its maiden deployment from San Diego Friday.

The Somerset will operate as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, which also includes the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.

Commissioned in Philadelphia in March, 2014, the 684-foot vessel was named in honor of the 40 crew members and passengers on United Flight 93 who attempted to regain control of the plane after it was hijacked. The aircraft crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville, killing 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers.

Somerset is the third of three amphibious transport dock ships named in remembrance of 9/11. The others are the USS New York, in honor of the victims and first-responders at the World Trade Center towers, and USS Arlington, for those who died -- and the rescuers at -- the Pentagon.

The Somerset will deploy with a crew of 375 sailors, plus 700 Marines of the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Makin Island ARG is comprised of a total of nearly 1,900 sailors, 2,600 11th MEU Marines, the “Blackjacks' of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5.

The ships will head out to the western Pacific and Middle East to conduct maritime security operation and be available in the event of a crisis situation, according to the Navy.

The departure comes amid rising tensions in the Red Sea, where missiles from Yemen were fired at the destroyer USS Mason, but missed. The U.S. military responded Wednesday by aiming cruise missiles at radar sites operated by Iran- backed Houthi rebels.

READ MOREUS in Yemen: If you threaten us, we'll respond

The Makin Island is named for a Pacific atoll that was the scene of a World War II battle, and the Comstock is named for a mining site near Virginia City, Nevada.

The mission will be commanded by Navy Capt. Michael Crary and Marine Col. Clay Tipton.