The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is sailing home to North Carolina, but a small contingent of Marines the MEU sent into Iraq to man an artillery base will remain there.
A 200-man artillery detachment from the MEU's Battalion Landing Team 2/6, Echo Battery, arrived at a small artillery outpost near Makhmour in northern Iraq in March. Called Fire Base Bell, the position is the first new U.S. base to be created and manned in Iraq since American troops were sent back into the country to support the fight against Islamic State militants in 2014.
Shortly after the Marines arrived, 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in a rocket attack that also wounded four other troops. Since then, the outpost has weathered multiple enemy attacks.
"Marines supporting [Operation Inherent Resolve] continue to operate in Iraq and will redeploy once they are relieved by an Army unit," Sgt. Augustin Long, a public affairs officer for the 26th MEU, said in a news release. "Their exact return date is yet to be officially determined."
The rest of the MEU, which deployed last September, will return home to Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point and New River, North Carolina, wrapping up a seven-month deployment to waters around the Middle East and Europe.
In addition to the battery sent into Iraq, the MEU sent AV-8B Harriers from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (reinforced) to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford visited Echo Battery Marines at Fire Base Bell on April 23 to award Purple Hearts to the four troops who were wounded in the March attack.
In a Defense Department news report, Dunford described a conversation with the Marine sergeant who took Cardin's place after he was killed.
"When I spoke about Staff Sergeant Cardin, his eyes were welling up," Dunford said in the story. "I told him, 'I really appreciate you taking care of these guys; they are counting on you and I know Staff Sergeant Cardin is kind of looking down. He would be doing what you are doing, which is merely tightening his chin strap and getting on with it, and I appreciate you doing that.' "