San Diego Union Tribune

November 17, 2006

More Marines from Pendleton sent into Anbar

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – At least 2,000 more Marines from Camp Pendleton have been committed to the effort to quell the persistently deadly insurgency in Iraq's Anbar province, the U.S. Central Command said yesterday.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was deployed in the Persian Gulf on the Boxer expeditionary strike group, was ordered ashore to reinforce the nearly 24,000 Marines already engaged in Anbar.

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Marine Capt. Daniel Chung said Army Gen. John Abizaid, the Central Command commander, signed the orders for the MEU to move ashore from the amphibious ships.

“They should already be in the area,” said Chung, a spokesman at Central Command's headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

Chung could not disclose how many Marines and sailors from the MEU moved into Anbar or where they were assigned.

A Marine expeditionary unit normally has about 2,200 personnel in an infantry battalion, with supporting reconnaissance, artillery and amphibious tractor units, a reinforced medium helicopter squadron, a logistical support unit and a command element.

The 15th MEU is made up of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165; and the 15th Combat Logistics Battalion, all based at Camp Pendleton and its air station.

They deployed on Sept. 13 aboard the San Diego-based amphibious ships Boxer, Dubuque and Comstock.

Abizaid mentioned that he had approved reinforcements for the Marine-led force in Anbar during appearances before the Senate and House armed services committees Wednesday, noting the continued violence in that western Iraq province.

The Marines have been responsible for Anbar since 2004.

The fighting against Sunni resistance and foreign terrorists there has caused nearly all of the 850 Marine and Navy deaths in Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom began.

Although much of the news focus in October was on the Army's deadly struggle in Baghdad, at least 36 Marines and sailors died in Anbar last month, the highest combat losses for the naval services in nearly two years. At least 14 more have died this month.

The worst fighting in Anbar appears to be in Ramadi, although the larger city of Fallujah remains violent.

This is the 15th MEU's third tour in Iraq. They were part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's assault on Iraq in March 2003 and returned in 2005, serving in Anbar.

The MEU also was part of the Marine force that penetrated 400 miles into Afghanistan to reinforce special operations units assaulting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in 2001.

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