NORFOLK--As the United States continues to mull over its options in Iraq, the Pentagon moved another Naval asset into the Persian Gulf. The Norfolk-based amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde passed through the Strait of Hormuz, becoming the third Hampton Roads based warship so ordered, joining the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and the destroyer USS Truxtun.

'All of these ship movements are giving the president options for how to deal with the situation,' said retired Navy Captain Joe Bouchard. 'They can perform a wide range of missions. The big deck amphib, the Mesa Verde, is an excellent platform if we have to evacuate Americans out of Iraq. The carrier provides a wide range of strike options, which might be necessary. And the presence of these ships reassures our allies that we will not let the turbulence spread to other countries.'

Bouchard, a former destroyer captain, as well as commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk, says having the ships pre-positioned in global hot-spot, is part of the Navy's on-going expeditionary mission. 'The value of the Navy is it can be forward-deployed in international waters, doesn't require the permission of a host government like land-based forces, so Naval forces are there, ready to respond on very short notice, able to send messages to allies as well as potential opponents,' he said.

With events rapidly unfolding in Iraq, Bouchard says the Navy could still play a key role. If not now, down the road. 'We may not be able to charge the course of events in Iraq, ' he said. 'But, we certainly can prevent it from becoming a broader conflict in the Middle East.'

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