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13th MEU Provides Assistance in Southern Iraq

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS031028-13

Release Date: 10/28/2003 2:18:00 PM

From Expeditionary Strike Group 1, Public Affairs

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- Elements of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC) completed humanitarian assistance, anti-smuggling and security and stabilization operations, Oct. 25, in southern Iraq as part of Operation Sweeney. The MEU SOC, a component of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1, delivered food, provided medical and dental capability and produced more than 3,000 gallons of water for citizens in the region.

The MEU contributed significantly to the coalition effort ashore by conducting more than 300 patrols in southern Iraq, 50 of which were riverine operations from the MEU's boat company. The MEU also trained local police in the setup and operation of security checkpoints, confiscated weapons and destroyed more than 2,000 rounds of ordnance, much of which was found in areas near villages and playgrounds.

ESG 1 arrived in the region in early October, and is among the most recent U.S. forces to join the coalition reconstruction effort in Iraq. While the MEU operated ashore throughout southern Iraq in support of the British-led Multinational Division Southeast, USS Peleliu (LHA 5), USS Ogden (LPD 5), USS Port Royal (CG 73) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) operated with the U.S. Coast Guard and coalition forces from Britain, Australia and Italy, in support of multinational Maritime Interception Operations.

"This was a total team effort," said Marine Corps Col. Mike Regner, commanding officer, 13th MEU SOC. "The Navy and Marine Corps team of the ESG got the opportunity to do what we've been trained to do, and it's made it even more rewarding because we could work directly with the Iraqi people and get immediate satisfaction from the job we did," said Regner.

The operation also provided Marine Corps and Navy units the opportunity to contribute to the re-establishment of the Iraqi judiciary as the country goes about cracking down on smuggling and other illegal activities. The Coalition Provisional Authority issued a new confiscation order, Aug. 31, which allows Iraq's judicial system to investigate alleged smugglers and return the stolen goods to the people of Iraq.

ESG 1 units helped legitimize the order, both ashore and at sea. The MEU turned 50 people over to Iraqi police for prosecution in Iraqi courts for various criminal activities, and confiscated three vessels. At sea, coalition forces continued to assist in getting Iraqi judicial officials to sea to conduct hearings to adjudicate the cases. The most recent hearing was Oct. 18, aboard USS Fletcher (DD 992).

Coalition officials estimate that oil smuggling costs the Iraqi people approximately $200,000 per day, along with the loss of one of its most marketable resources.

This is money that Navy officials believe could go to benefit the Iraqi people.

"A pillar of our mission is to provide combatant commanders the flexibility to conduct missions across the spectrum of conflict. Our mission here, ashore with the 13th MEU, as well as at sea with our maritime forces, has been a validation of our ability to provide that kind of flexibility. I couldn't be more proud of the contributions our Marines and Sailors made to Operation Sweeney," said Rear Adm. Bob Conway, Jr., commander, ESG 1.

ESG 1 continues to support multinational Maritime Interception Operations in support of Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet.

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