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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the USS Gerald R. Ford on Wednesday, during his trip to the Middle East, where he met with US service members stationed on the aircraft carrier.

Austin thanked the crew of roughly 4,000 sailors for their dedication and sacrifice, especially during the holiday season. He acknowledged their “crucial role” in maintaining peace in a region experiencing significant tension, saying, “In a moment of huge tension in the region, you all have been the linchpin of preventing a wider regional conflict.”

The deployment of the USS Ford, along with the USS Eisenhower, to the eastern Mediterranean was a response to an attack by the militant group Hamas on southern Israel on October 7, which escalated into a broader conflict. These aircraft carriers, together with other US military assets in the region, serve a strategic role in deterring further escalations in the Middle East, particularly as Israel continues its operations against Hamas in Gaza. The Ford, positioned just a few hundred miles from the Israeli coast, stands ready to provide rapid support to Israel, which faces threats from Hezbollah in Lebanon, a group engaged in daily exchanges of fire with Israeli forces.


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