By Dan Lamothe
- Staff writer
Posted : Monday Dec 7, 2009 5:30:53 EST
A North Carolina-based infantry battalion will be the first U.S.
unit to deploy to Afghanistan as part of an additional 30,000 troops
who will be sent into combat during the next six months, said a Marine
official overseeing the unit.
Camp Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th
Marines, "will deploy in the near future,” said Col. David Fuquea,
chief of staff for Lejeune’s 2nd Marine Division. He declined to say
when the unit will arrive in theater, but Marine officials at the
Pentagon said the first unit will deploy before Dec. 25.
battalion was the first Marine unit to fight in Afghanistan in years
when it deployed as part of Lejeune’s 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in
2008, but it has had nearly 15 months to rest and train for its next
mission, said Fuquea, speaking at a Thursday night dinner sponsored by
the Marine Corps Association, a professional organization composed of
current and former Marines and their family members.
about 9,000 Marines will be sent to Afghanistan by late-spring, Lt.
Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, deputy commandant of plans, policies and
operations, told guests at the dinner.
"That will bring our total in Afghanistan to just under 20,000,” he said. "We are in this for the long haul.”
increase in the number of Marines has prompted the Corps to shift gears
in Afghanistan in at least one regard. The service had previously named
1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to
replace Lejeune-based 2nd MEB as the command element in theater.
Instead, the Corps will now deploy I Marine Expeditionary Force
Forward, a larger force to be commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Mills,
commander of Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division.
Brig. Gen. Joseph
Osterman, who was named as 1st MEB’s commander in July, told guests at
the MCA dinner that "quick work” was done during the last few weeks at
Camp Pendleton to prepare for the possibility of a MEF Fwd. task force
deploying. Marine logisticians worked seven days straight through
Thanksgiving to prepare, inspect and package more than 1,800 pieces of
gear, ranging from vehicles to communications equipment, before
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday what his plan for Afghanistan
would be, he said.
Osterman will now deploy as the commander of
the force’s ground combat element, he said in a brief interview
Thursday night. The units deploying will include two regimental combat
teams, a reconnaissance battalion, an artillery battalion, a
light-armored reconnaissance battalion, as well as headquarters
elements, he said.
The officers did not elaborate Thursday night
on which other units will deploy. Marine officials have said deployment
orders could be announced as soon as Friday, or sometime next week.