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An ABC affiliate in North Carolina raised a stir when it reported some “2,200 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will participate in [Libyan] support operations based aboard USS Kearsarge at sea,” according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Even though the report stressed that the Marines’ only direct involvement to date has been in air strikes – specifically two missions by Marine Harrier jets against regime forces near the city of Ajdabiya – and one rescue operation, the report created the perception that a significant Marine ground force is preparing for operations in Libya.

It didn’t help when the story quoted Lejeune-based 26th MEU spokesman Capt. Timothy Patrick as saying, “In Libya right now they [Marines] are doing exactly what we need them to do. They are doing what they are told and right now that’s protecting Libyan people against Gadhafi forces.”

While Patrick was referring to the air operations, some misinterpreted the quote to mean that ground forces were already there.

None of this is true, at least for the moment. While there are combat units aboard the Kearsarge, they are not that numerous and did not arrive with the 26th MEU.

How did this happen?

Marine Capt. Richard Ulsh, the public affairs officer on station in the Mediterranean with the 26th MEU, reported by email this week that most of the 26th MEU Marines are in Afghanistan.

Those remaining on the USS Kearsarge are primarily combat aviation, support and logistics staff.

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