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22d MEU (SOC) arrives in Afghanistan

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 4/14/2004

Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (April 14, 2004) -- More than 2,200 Marines and Sailors of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have completed their movement into Afghanistan to assist the country in its quest for long-term stability.

Commanded by Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., the 22d MEU (SOC) left Camp Lejeune, N.C. in mid-February aboard the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 2. Prior to its deployment to Afghanistan, the unit completed a amphibious landing exercise in Albania and conducted simultaneous Mediterranean port visits in Malta, Albania, and Croatia.

Advance elements of the MEU first arrived in Kandahar in mid to late March to lay the groundwork for the rest of the force's arrival. After a brief period of reconsolidation, acclimatization, and refresher training, the forces of the 22d MEU (SOC) will begin conducting combat and civil military operations.

Sgt. Mike Cheplick is a section leader in the light armored reconnaissance platoon of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the MEU's ground combat element, and says his Marines are ready for their mission.

"We're ready to hit the ground running," said Cheplick, who saw action alongside most of his platoon mates in Iraq last year during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. "Morale is really high, and there's no real fear among the Marines, but just the usual apprehension about the uncertainty of what lies ahead."

The MEU's specific missions in Afghanistan will include facilitating election efforts and seeking out and destroying Al Qaeda, Taliban, and anti-coalition militia operating in the unit's area of operations. The unit will be in Afghanistan for an undetermined length of time operating under the operational control of Combined Joint Task Force 180.

In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.

For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.



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