11th MEU (SOC) assumes responsibility of Karbala province
Marine Corps News
Story Identification #: 2004122384744
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata
CAMP LIMA, Iraq (Dec. 23, 2004) -- The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) assumed operational control of Karbala province from the Polish-led Multi-National Division Central South (MND-CS) during a ceremony here, Dec. 21.
The move came as part of a realignment of forces in southern Iraq. MEU Marines relinquished responsibility of Al Qadisiyah province last month to Polish MND-CS forces.
"Understanding of the current situation by both sides, Marines and Polish soldiers helped make the turnover of the area easier," said Polish Lt. Col. Krzysztof Radonski, commander, 2nd Battle Group, 1st Brigade Combat Team, MND-CS. "We are very lucky that such a good unit is taking over responsibility from us."
According to Lt. Col. Eugene N. Apicella, executive officer, 11th MEU (SOC), the MEU's mission in Karbala is to support the Interim Iraqi Government just like in Najaf province and to support security services.
"By support I mean through our own active security patrolling and, more importantly, working closely with the (Iraqi police) and (national guardsmen) to build upon their capabilities," Apicella explained.
While in Karbala province, MEU Marines, soldiers and sailors will conduct security patrols; train, equip and work with leadership in the 401st Battalion, 50th Iraqi National Guard Brigade, and police force; and conduct civil military operations in their area of responsibility southwest of Baghdad.
According to Apicella, recent events such as Sunday's car bomb show that Karbala has an existing security infrastructure and a police force that's doing its job. When the car failed to stop at a traffic checkpoint, Iraqi police fired upon the vehicle causing the premature detonation of the bomb by either the driver or the impact of the machine gun's fired ammunition. Regardless, the premature detonation prevented even more casualties from occurring.
"As we saw recently with the Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device that was used against the peaceful people of Karbala, IPs interdicted the vehicle bomb that was being brought in the city," Apicella said. "Although it was a tragic loss of life to the IPs and civilians affected, it was a good sign that there are IPs out there doing their job. They stood their ground and ultimately kept the bomb from getting through."
MEU forces will work with the local government on civil affairs projects to improve conditions in the following sectors: public education, essential services (water, electricity, parking, etc), governance, public health, the economy and general quality of life.
"The Marines face several challenges in Karbala province. They must support the election process, help local authorities establish new laws, fight against groups who set up mines and Improvised Explosive Devises and, most importantly, maintain peace and stability in the area," said Radonski. "We are proud we were allowed to meet and work together with a unit which has such great combat traditions."
Getting to know the people of Karbala province is a high priority, according to Apicella.
"Like any new area of operations, when you come into it you have to get to know the people both from the civil leadership side and the military," said Apicella. "Getting to know them, helping them get to know us and building mutual respect between the various elements is important so that you can conduct smooth operations and training, and support their efforts to move forward in the pursuit of happiness."
MEU Marines assumed control of the An Najaf and Al Qadisiyah provinces on July 31, 2004 and relinquished control of Al Qadisiyah province to MND-CS forces on Nov. 30.
Apicella said that the 11th MEU had a large advantage in Karbala -- many of the Marines from (Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment) were here last year during Operation Iraqi Freedom I and are no strangers to the city.
"The Marines have a very good reputation in Karbala from OIF I," Apicella said. "I think that will facilitate a pretty rapid integration between the civil military functions in Karbala and the Coalition's ability to support that structure."
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