View Full Version : 11th MEU departs early to reinforce troops in Iraq

05-29-04, 07:00 AM
11th MEU departs early to reinforce troops in Iraq
Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 2004528162925
Story by Cpl. Matthew S. Richards

ABOARD THE USS BELLEAU WOOD(May 27, 2004) -- ABOARD THE USS BELLEAU WOOD -- The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) departed Thursday from 32nd Street Naval Station San Diego nearly a month earlier than the scheduled deployment in response to a request from U.S. Central Command for more forces in Iraq.

Before this request, the MEU was scheduled to conduct a typical MEU deployment, serving as a crisis response unit in the U.S. Central and Pacific Commands areas of operation -- a mission for which MEUs are renowned. Now that 11th MEU Marines know they are headed for Iraq in support of stability and security operations, they have no doubt they are ready for the task.

"The Marines and sailors of the MEU are really positive. More than 50 percent of them are returning varsity so they've been there before," said Col. A.M. Haslam, commanding officer, 11th MEU.

The veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom say they feel more secure going back this second time.

"We're definitely more confident now than before," said Pfc. Cody D. Finch, a mortarman with Weapons Platoon, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. "Everyone's already used to it and knows what they're expected to do."

Although the MEU departed early, that didn't prevent them from finishing their normal training period. In the shortened cycle -- 4 1/2 months vice 6 months -- the MEU obtained their SOC qualification, a feat that shows their readiness and confidence.

Haslam feels this adaptation will help them in the myriad of possible missions they could face.

"What's great about the MEU (SOC) cycle is that we are trained to rapidly plan and execute missions, and to work in a fluid environment where things are constantly changing. It's important to be able to adapt and quickly change your plan," Haslam said. "While the details of our mission are currently being refined, we'll be ready to go. We'll make it happen."

The MEU began their scheduled training in January, practicing for a normal deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East regions with the Belleau Wood Expeditionary Strike Group. Now with a known mission and location, the MEU tailored their equipment to meet new needs.

The MEU has brought enough High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicles and Motor Transportation Vehicle Replacement 7-ton trucks to support the BLT on the ground. All these vehicles have been outfitted with extra armor as well.

But even with all the preparations and confidence of the individual Marines, that doesn't stop the loved ones left behind from worrying.

"I don't want him to go, I'm going to pray for him every moment," said Vivian Lee, 23-year-old fiancee of a departing BLT Marine. "But I know what he has to go do."

The Marines of the 11th MEU are confident in their experience and training to get the job done.

"The deployment will be easier this time because you know from experience what you and everyone around you can do," Finch said with a calm assuredness.


Lance Cpl. Jeremy Rapp, rifleman, 1st Platoon, Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th MEU (SOC), spends a few last minutes with his wife and daughter, Christina and Caden, before departing aboard the USS Denver Thursday morning. The MEU departed nearly a month earlier than the scheduled deployment in response to a request from U.S. Central Command for more forces in Iraq. Photo by: Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco



05-29-04, 07:01 AM
Longtime Exile Selected Interim Iraq PM


BAGHDAD, Iraq - The United States has warmly endorsed a decision by the Iraqi Governing Council to select a longtime exile with strong ties to the CIA to be the new prime minister of Iraq's interim government despite U.N. concerns over his past links.

Friday's selection of Iyad Allawi _ a Shiite Muslim council member who headed an exile group made up of former Saddam Hussein military officers _ was an assertion of influence by the U.S.-picked body as the June 30 date for the return of Iraqi sovereignty draws near.

"He is certainly a fine and capable leader who appears to have broad support among the Iraqi people," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of Allawi, who is also a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The White House had said earlier in the day that Allawi was just one of many candidates and the council was one of many groups offering names. Secretary of State Colin Powell, early in the day, had said the United States had "no position on any candidate at this moment."

However, a senior Bush administration official in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Allawi will become prime minister, and the White House praised Allawi as "a fine and capable leader."

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been leading discussions on forming the government, also all but endorsed Allawi. Brahimi "is perfectly comfortable with how the process is proceeding so far," a statement by his office said.

The United Nations acknowledged the timing of the council's announcement was a surprise, but said Brahimi would work with Allawi on the makeup of the government, due to be announced in the coming days.

Allawi had been "high on (Brahimi's) list" of possible premiers," spokesman Fred Eckhard said at U.N. headquarters in New York. The announcement "is not how we expected it to happen ... but the Iraqis seem to agree on this candidate."

Still to be chosen for the new government are a president, two vice presidents and 26 Cabinet members. The president, a largely symbolic post, is to be a Sunni, and the vice presidents are expected to be a Kurd and a Shiite.

Allawi has maintained a low profile here and is believed to have only a limited power base in Iraq.

But council members wanted a prime minister with a strong background in security to deal with the persistent violence that will be the most compelling challenge for the new government.

Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party included many army officers who defected during Saddam's rule, and a relative serves as Iraq's minister of defense. He is also a member of the majority Shiite community, whose leaders had insisted that one of their own take the most powerful government post.

The choice was a rejection of Brahimi's initial preference for a weak government of nonpolitical figures to take power June 30 and prepare for national elections by Jan. 31.

Absent any opposition, however, it appeared the United Nations had little choice but to accept the Governing Council decision, given international demands for the Iraqis to have a greater say in their own affairs.

A U.N. official said Brahimi had advance word that the council would pick Allawi, and that Brahimi, while respecting Allawi's abilities, was concerned about his close identification with the Americans and the CIA.

Governing Council member Raja Habib al-Khuzaai told Associated Press Television News that the decision to select Allawi occurred at a special meeting which began at 3 p.m. Friday. Twenty of the council's 22 members were present or represented at the session; all voted for Allawi.

The U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, was invited to join the session at 4 p.m., and Brahimi was invited an hour later _ ostensibly to discuss other issues. Each was informed of the council decision when he arrived, al-Khuzaai said.

Soon after, Brahimi signaled his acceptance. His spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, told The Associated Press , "Very, very soon, we will be discussing with the prime minister-designate the formation of the whole Cabinet."

The statement by Brahimi's office appeared to accept the prime minister's post as filled, saying "the interim government, its president and vice presidents included ... (is) still to be formed."

Initially, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Allawi's nomination was only one of many recommendations to Brahimi. But later, the president's spokesman all but endorsed Allawi.

Bremer spokesman Dan Senor told reporters that Bremer attended the session "after the Governing Council had voted on their endorsement for prime minister and congratulated the Governing Council on a very distinguished choice."

The council decision came two days after the purported front-runner, nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, announced he was not interested in the post _ apparently because established Shiite political factions objected.

Allawi and other Shiite former exiles _ Ahmad Chalabi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim _ also argued that Iraq needed a strong prime minister.

His "nomination has a great deal to do with security since it's ... our main problem," council member Mahmoud Othman said.

Those concerns have become more acute as the countdown to sovereignty continues. Despite an agreement to end fighting around Najaf, a Shiite rebellion led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr continues, as does a Sunni insurgency in central Iraq.

Baghdad and other cities have been rocked by car bombings, including an attack May 17 that killed the head of the Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem. On Thursday, gunmen ambushed the convoy of council member Salama al-Khafaji, killing a bodyguard and her son.

Allawi, a neurologist and businessman, had been involved in the opposition since the 1970s, organizing various groups and coordinating policies with his backers in Washington _ particularly the CIA and State Department.

While living in London in 1978, Allawi survived an assassination attempt believed to have been ordered by Saddam. His Iraqi National Accord advocated a coup against Saddam, but an attempt in 1996 failed.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.



05-29-04, 07:03 AM
Wounded Marine says a miracle saved him <br />
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By Rachel Uranga <br />
Staff Writer <br />
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SUN VALLEY -- Twice declared dead by medics after a sniper's bullet struck his head in Baghdad, Marine Reserve Sgt....

05-29-04, 07:04 AM
Bessemer artillery unit activated to provide security for Marine convoys overseas

Associated Press

BESSEMER, Ala. - Officials said up to 450 members of a Bessemer-based U.S. Marine Reserve artillery unit will be activated to provide security for Marine convoys overseas.

The 4th Battalion of the 14th Marine Regiment, which has between 500 and 550 Marines, also has some members in Huntsville and Chattanooga units.

"We expect to be gone by the end of June," Sgt. Maj. Paul Anderson said.

He said the unit had received a notification of "intent" on Monday, which did not mean activation was certain.

The activation order arrived Wednesday although further clarification of the notice was not expected for 30 days.

Anderson said the unit will have its annual two weeks of active duty training soon.

Members can expect to return home before having to leave again. Reservists will be retrained as military police to provide security for convoys overseas after activation.

Asked whether "overseas" meant Iraq or Afghanistan, Anderson said the unit's likely destination would not be Afghanistan.



05-29-04, 07:06 AM
AP: Military Intelligence Accused of Abuse <br />
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WASHINGTON - Several U.S. guards allege they witnessed military intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates...

05-29-04, 09:17 AM
Marines to begin training Iraqi forces in Fallujah <br />
Loyalties in doubt as US tries to quiet a troublesome city <br />
By Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters | May 28, 2004 <br />
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FALLUJAH, Iraq -- US Marines will...