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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Royal Tongan Marine contingency ends operations in Iraq

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Friday, 05 December 2008

Multi-National Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20081205-02
Dec. 5, 2008

Royal Tongan Marine contingency ends operations in Iraq
Spc. Eric J. Martinez, 13th Public Affairs Detachment

BAGHDAD – The Tongan Defense Services Royal Tongan Marines held their end-of-mission ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Dec. 4.

In June 2004, the first contingent of 45 Royal Tongan Marines deployed to Al-Ramadi in the Anbar province, under the provincial control of the 1st U.S. Marine Expeditionary Division. Since August 2007, the Tongan Marines have provided 24 hour-a-day security for their fellow coalition service members working at Al Faw Palace in support of Multi-National Force and Corps – Iraq.

“The time has come for us to bid farewell to the Tongan contingent of the coalition,” said Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commanding general, MNC-I. “The [Tongan] Marines have given five and a half years of contribution to MNC-I, and we are truly thankful for their participation.”

The entire Tongan Defense Service totals 450 service members who are charged with the security requirements of their nation’s 100,000 citizens.

“It is no small measure of the commitment and sacrifice when the Kingdom of Tonga contributes 55 of their elite Royal Marines to Multi-National Corps - Iraq, but that’s the nature of the Tongan people; friendship and contribution,” Austin said.

“They are some of the finest people I have ever come across,” said Lt. Col. William Wanovich, battalion commander, Task Force Dragon. “Not only are they hard workers and physically strong, they are dedicated and humble about it.”

The military partnership between the United States and the Kingdom of Tonga dates back to World War II when Tonga was one of the first countries to follow the U.S. in declaring war on Japan just days after Pearl Harbor.

“The Tongan soldiers of World War II were thought of highly by the 147th Infantry Regiment, and the 77th Coastal Artillery who fought alongside them. Three Tongan soldiers were awarded the United States Silver Star Medal for valor in combat,” Austin said. “I am proud that Tonga’s participation in Iraq can now be added to our storied military history as military compatriots.”

When the Royal Tongan Marines said goodbye to Al Faw Palace and Iraq, their tremendous contributions to coalition efforts in Iraq became a major part of the new history of Iraq.

“We all work together here, and the Tongan Marines were an important coalition partner,” Wanovich said. “As friends of the United States, they will be missed here in Iraq.”

“Marines, we will miss your professionalism, and equally your high morale and esprit, which is infectious to all of us,” Austin said. “It is sad to see you go, but your departure is yet another indication of the progress we’ve made in Iraq. So, if success here in Iraq means we must part ways, then this farewell is a tribute to our collective success as a coalition, and to the stability of Iraq.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT THE MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS – IRAQ PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE BY E-MAIL AT: MNCIPAOVICTORYMAINJO@IRAQ.CENTCOM.MIL .

FOR THIS PRESS RELEASE AND OTHERS VISIT HTTP://WWW.BRAGG.ARMY.MIL/MNCI/DEFAULT.HTM

FOR HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTOS, PLEASE CONTACT THE DIGITAL VIDEO AND IMAGERY DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM BY CALLING 678-421-6612 OR ACCESS THEM ON-LINE AT WWW.DVIDSHUB.NET <FILE://WWW.DVIDSHUB.NET>.

DIRECT LINK TO B-ROLL OF THE TONGAN END OF MISSION CEREMONY AT http://www.dvidshub.net/?script=video/video_show.php&id=50712



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