Members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are preparing to ship out for a seven-month deployment through one of the world's most turbulent regions.

Aboard the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based Marine air-ground task force will steam to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation, said Capt. Sharon Hyland, MEU spokeswoman. That means the roughly 2,400-person strong force will cruise near Europe, Africa and the Middle East in following months after Marines depart this weekend.

While officials noted the MEU is trained and equipped for a variety of crises, including humanitarian missions and combat operations, they declined to speculate about potential missions. Marines in recent months have aided with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and U.S. military forces continue to operate in Iraq as well as in the skies above war-torn Syria.

"We're just prepared for it all right now," Hyland said, echoing Col. Scott F. Benedict, the task force's commanding officer.

"The Marines of the MEU have worked very hard, we have been resourced, trained and certified," Benedict said in a new release announcing the deployment. "We are ready to go forward and accomplish our assigned tasks, whatever they may be."

In previous deployments, members of the 24th MEU evacuated Americans in Beirut in 2006, fought in Helmand province, the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2008 and provided humanitarian relief in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake, according to Marine officials.

Along with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, the task forceMarine units aboard the MEU include Battalion Landing Team 3/6 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 Reinforced, which is outfitted with MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1 Super Cobras, UH-1 Hueys and AV-8B Harriers. Command, logistics and a special operations forces liaison element round out the MEU, Hyland said.

Though deployments increasingly have been extended in recent years, Hyland said the 24th remains scheduled for a traditional seven-month pump. Earlier this year, for example, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel prolonged the 22nd MEU's tour by several weeks. And in 2012, the 24th MEU remained at sea for nearly nine months to monitor political strife in the Middle East.

Hyland did not rule out scheduling changes, but said any adjustments would come at a later date.

When it arrives, the 24th MEU will replace the 11th MEU, which is based out of Camp Pendleton, California. Two special purpose MAGTFs, one based in Spain and the other in Kuwait, continue to operate in the area.

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