US Marines identify units ordered to Afghanistan

Marines identify units ordered to Afghanistan

By MARK WALKER - | Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:20 pm

David Guttenfelder Troops from Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment slept in "fighting holes" inside a compound where they stayed in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province in this July 8 photo. The battalion began arriving home in recent days and all are expected back in time for Christmas. (File photo by David Guttenfelder - Associated Press)

About 4,500 Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station are among the 30,000 troops President Barack Obama is ordering to Afghanistan, a Marine spokesman said Tuesday.

The units who have received the deployment orders are the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing; the 1st Marine Logistics Group; the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment; and a recently formed Marine Air-Ground Task Force Support Battalion, said 1st Lt. Tom Garnett at Camp Pendleton.

That group of approximately 3,700 Marines and sailors is scheduled to leave in February and March for Afghanistan's southern Helmand province.

In addition, an 800-member Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Division is slated to deploy in April, Garnett said.

The Marines will be led by the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, with Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman serving as his top on-ground commander.

Brig. Gen. Andrew O'Donnell Jr. will head up the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing's combat aviation element, which includes helicopter and jet fighter squadrons.

Brig. Gen. Charles Hudson will lead the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

About 8,500 Marines are being ordered to Afghanistan as part of the president's surge order announced earlier this month.

Approximately 4,000 Marines from North Carolina's Camp Lejeune also are being sent, including 1,500 troops from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment who are deploying immediately.

Once all those forces are there, the Marine Corps will have nearly 19,000 troops in Afghanistan.

As all those groups prepare for war, Camp Pendleton's 1,200-troop 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment that has been in the Helmand province since spring is in the process of returning to the base. All the troops are expected home by Christmas.

As the U.S. winds down its presence in Iraq, no large groups of local Marines are expected to be sent to that country. The last infantry battalion still in Iraq, a St. Louis-based reserve unit, is scheduled to return in January.

In Washington, Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, told reporters Tuesday the additional Marines in Afghanistan will "expand the zones of influence" using methods that worked in Iraq, such as staying in remote areas and living among the local population.

"You win the confidence of the people, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, by being the strongest tribe," Conway said during a Pentagon briefing. "We have validated our tactics, techniques and procedures in Iraq."

The Marine Corps has transferred much of its equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan, including the versatile Osprey aircraft that flies like an airplane and takes off and lands like a helicopter.

The Osprey is proving its value by safely moving Marines into areas populated by the Taliban, Conway said.

"We're using them to land troops deep and build up our troop numbers," he said. "The Osprey will be in Afghanistan as long as Marines are in Afghanistan."

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