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Marines leave Iraq, return to their own lives

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20052192148
Story by Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Feb. 19, 2005) -- After seven months of duty in Iraq, Marine Cpl. Floyd A. Celestine says he has a gift waiting at home that will change his life forever. His daughter, Madison, was born Feb. 8, 2005 - one week before the Norfolk, Va., native was scheduled to go home.

"I'm a daddy now. It's given me more responsibility and made me grow stronger as a leader. It's just a blessing," said Celestine, a 21-year-old who has spent the past seven months driving military vehicles for his unit - 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.

Celestine's story is not uncommon for the Marines of 2/10, a Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based artillery unit assigned to the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Force Service Support Group to provide security as provisional riflemen.

In addition to missing the birth of sons and daughters, the Marines missed anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and a number of other special days while serving in the Global War on Terrorism.

"At times it got hard, (the deployment) was very demanding on the convoys and different missions and now we're going home together," said Celestine. "In my section, we didn't lose anybody. Nobody got hurt."

Celestine's unit participated in last November's combat operations to rid Fallujah of insurgents. Celestine's platoon participated in a five-and-a-half hour fire fight in Fallujah, he said.

"It was scary, but it was exciting," said Celestine. "I never had a near death experience like that."

For many of the Marines, seven months in Iraq provided the opportunity to live out what they had joined the Marine Corps to do - be riflemen.

"I got to be a Marine, sometimes I got to shoot (my rifle)," said Joshua G. Lujan, a 19-year-old combat photographer.

Equally, the end of the deployment means picking up on a life they had left behind.

"I'm trying to start all over again, getting a house and furniture," said Lujan, who plans on relocating with his wife, Audrey, to North Carolina from their home in Sacramento, Calif.

The Lejeune-based battalion's departure is part of a mass turnover of Marine forces in Iraq's Al Anbar Province. In coming weeks, more than 20,000 Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force will be replacing the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Already, Marines from 2nd FSSG, which falls under the Camp Lejeune-based II MEF, are beginning to replace Marine units of 1st FSSG, which has served as the central logistical hub for the 31,000 Marines, sailors, and soldiers of I MEF.

Utilizing military convoys and aircraft, 1st FSSG Marines delivered a variety of items to I MEF forces, to include uniforms, ammunition, armor kits, fuel, food and water.

During the past seven months, the 1st FSSG's combat service support units have spent thousands of hours in approximately 1,335 convoys delivering provisions traveling 1.4 million miles along Iraq's improvised explosive device-laden highways and roads to deliver 2.9 million cargo short tons of supplies and equipment.

The logistical support the 1st FSSG contributed to the execution of security and stabilization operations throughout the Al Anbar Province.

Some of the noteworthy accomplishments of the 1st FSSG include:

* Distributed and tracked six million MREs in half a million cases spread across 10,400 pallets with a combined weight of almost 5,000 tons.

* Distributed and tracked 14 million bottles of water in 1.2 million cases spread across 21,000 pallets with a combined weight in excess of 23,500 tons.

* In support of the Independent Election Committee of Iraq elections, received, billeted and provided basic life support to over 1000 IECI personnel.

* Received, stored and distributed 42,846,945 gallons of fuel.

* Produced, stored, and distributed 21,708,676 gallons of water.

* Received/distributed 11 million rounds of ammunition.

* Treated 9,603 personnel of which 2,527 received emergency care.

* Supported 141,091 civilians at humanitarian assistance sites in Fallujah, handing out 124,893 humanitarian rations and over 140,000 bottles of water.

* Provided 2,923 explosive ordnance disposal missions to date.

The accomplishments of the 5,000-plus Marines with the 1st FSSG not only contributed to the operational success of the units they supported, but ultimately, to the reconstruction and future of Iraq after three decades of tyranny.

With the first democratic elections in Iraq successfully completed, the country has taken its first steps towards freedom...and the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers of the 1st FSSG can leave knowing they did their part.

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