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Marines Return to Iraq

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 3/8/2004

Story by HQMC Public Affairs

IRAQ(March 8, 2004) -- The Marine Corps is answering the call to duty overseas as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. From March 2004 to March 2005, Marines and sailors will conduct Security and Stability Operations (SASO) in Western Iraq to help the Iraqi people establish an Iraq that is unified, stable and at peace with itself and its neighbors. For many of the Marines and Sailors the terrain will be familiar, owing to their involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom last year. Other Marines and sailors, however, will be entering the Middle-Eastern country for the first time.

"This is an important time in Marine Corps history," said Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Mike Hagee. "We are successfully demonstrating our ability to execute missions in a wide variety of environments across the full spectrum of operations. We are working closely with coalition forces to fight our nation's enemies in the Global War on Terrorism, and we will continue to answer the call until our mission is complete."

"We will deploy approximately 25,000 Marines and Sailors to Iraq," said Col Doug Stilwell, Deputy Director of Operations Division, Plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps. "We're talking about nine maneuver battalions and required combat support and combat service support."

As usual, the Marines will operate in an organic Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The Corps contribution to OIF-II will occur in two seven-month rotations. The first rotation is expected to be from March to September of 2004. The second rotation is expected to be from September 2004 to March 2005. The Corps will send a division-sized Marine Air Ground Task Force to Iraq with the preponderance of units coming from the I Marine Expeditionary Force, headquartered at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The Marines will primarily relieve the Army's 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Airborne Division.

"In preparation for OIF-II, we have analyzed lessons learned from our experiences in conducting security and stability operations from March to September 2003, and recent Army lessons learned," said Gen. Hagee. "We have assimilated these lessons through a comprehensive training package that includes tactics, techniques, procedures for stability and counter-insurgency operations."

Before returning to Iraq, units conducted SASO training in a vacant family housing area near March Air Reserve Base in Southern California. The training, which was approximately one-week in duration, was focused on preparing Marines for contingencies they may encounter in Iraq. The training began at the small unit, or squad and platoon level, to gradually sharpen unit cohesion and build skills. The training concluded with a battalion-sized field exercise that enables the units to practice and test their capabilities to conduct typical missions associated with operations in an urban environment.

"This exercise is great," said Cpl. John P. Pollson, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. "They've provided us with the most realistic environment they could."

In addition to SASO training, Marines are receiving Arabic language immersion training, and all deploying Marines and Sailors are receiving cultural education.

"This is my second deployment to Iraq and I'm just as motivated as the last time," said LCpl Christian Slater, of the 1st Force Service Support Group, based at Camp Pendleton, CA. "I joined the Marines to get out and serve my country. I've done it twice now and I'm still a Lance Corporal. I think Iraq needs our presence right now," he added.

Although the preponderance of units will come from I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, CA, Marines and sailors from across the globe will be participating. Approximately 5,000 Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will participate as will approximately 3,000 Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan. The reserve component of the first 7-month rotation will include approximately 3,000 Marines and the second rotation will be approximately 3,500. Also, approximately two dozen journalists from U.S. based newspapers and TV stations will be embedded with the units.

"Going back to Iraq is part of the job," said GySgt Andrew Lewis, of the Camp Lejeune-based 2d Battalion, 2d Marines. "The hardest part (for my family) is knowing that I will be gone for a length of time." He added that he saw the mission as similar to the peacekeeping operations he participated in during his last deployment in Kosovo.

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