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More Marines Head To Afghanistan
By Jason Chudy
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 27, 2004,

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan More Marines have landed in Afghanistan.

Following the lead elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived last week, 2,200 more troops are heading into the region from their Navy expeditionary strike group in the Persian Gulf to help fight against al-Qaida and other anti-coalition forces, according to military officials.

The Marines, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., left Feb. 18 on board three amphibious ships; the USS Wasp, USS Whidbey Island and USS Shreveport, according to a Defense Department news release.

The Marines and sailors will join the 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Marine ground force will be the Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The force is considered a reinforced battalion, as it is strengthened by troops from other units.

In addition to infantry and weapons companies, the ground force includes platoons of M1A1 tanks, light-armored vehicles, combat engineers, reconnaissance forces, assault amphibian vehicles, and a six-gun 155 mm artillery battery.

The BLT's mission, according to the unit's Web site, is to "locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver; or to repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat."

The MEU's air power comes from the Medium Helicopter Squadron 266. HMM-266, which flies the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, is reinforced with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing transport and attack helicopters and AV-8B Harrier II jets.

Harriers, which can take off and land vertically, and AH-1W Super Cobras are used by the Marines to provide attack support for their ground troops.

MEU Service Support Group 22 rounds out the Marine units. For this deployment, MSSG-22 was created from the existing Marine Wing Support Squadron 274. Units include a military police detachment, maintenance and engineer platoons.

Earlier this month, 22nd MEU units took part in a five-day amphibious landing exercise off the coast of Albania.

The 22nd MEU is commanded by Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.

Rounding out the ESG are the cruisers USS Leyte Gulf and USS Yorktown, destroyer USS McFaul, and attack submarine USS Connecticut. More than 6,300 sailors and Marines made up the ESG.

Lt. Gen. Henry P. "Pete" Osman, commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, was quoted in The Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C., last month as saying that the MEU is " going into harm's way as part of an offensive support effort this spring [in] Afghanistan."

MEU troops, including Marine Corps military policemen and Navy medical personnel, joined with U.S. and Romanian forces recently for a medical visit to an Afghan village near the Kandahar airfield.

Navy corpsmen have also been working with a Kandahar-based medical helicopter evacuation unit to familiarize themselves with their equipment and procedures.

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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