KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More Marines have landed in
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
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
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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