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thedrifter
10-11-05, 08:16 PM
October 17, 2005
4th MEB’s anti-terror grunt battalion stays busy
By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

It was unveiled just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as the Marine Corps’ answer to a new kind of war. Made up of some of the most specialized units in the Corps, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) was to take on everything from dealing with a chemical weapons strike to rescuing a besieged embassy in a terrorist hot zone.

The MEB was to be the go-to force for the Corps’ most specialized missions intended to blunt the aims of terrorist adversaries, but in the four years since its establishment, the force has garnered few headlines. Its most high-profile missions have been to guard the recaptured U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2002 and to secure the U.S. Embassy in Iraq’s “Green Zone” last year.

The low-speed missions, coupled with the Corps’ recent move to assign a permanent infantry unit as the brigade’s Anti-Terrorism battalion, has prompted some in the Corps to wonder whether the 4th MEB is worth all the hype. But according to the commander of the brigade’s cadre of infantrymen, the 4th MEB’s current missions prove the future will likely be a busy one.

“In reality, the AT battalion is doing exactly what they’re supposed to do — and that’s a function of the operational environment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Killion, commander of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, the Corps’ newest infantry battalion and the 4th MEB’s permanent grunt force.

“It’s a wide and varied battlefield, and there’s a spectrum of requirements and we give everybody a sector of that spectrum. … It gives greater flexibility to the Marine Corps as to how they’re going to approach a specific situation.”

Since relinquishing the Kabul embassy security mission in April and assuming the Baghdad one in March 2004 — a mission that will belong to the MEB for the foreseeable future — Killion said his grunts have been assigned a variety of missions not normally part of an infantryman’s job.

In May, the MEB sent more than 30 of its most experienced noncommissioned officers and officers to assist in a militarywide effort to help train Iraqi forces to defend the country’s borders against terrorist infiltration, Killion said. The teams are set up like Army Special Forces “Alpha Teams,” which are trained to operate autonomously, far from the support of conventional forces.

The MEB also has established a cadre of specially trained bodyguards who protect high-ranking military personnel in the 2nd Marine Division Headquarters Group and staffers assigned to Joint Task Force Horn of Africa in Djibouti. The MEB’s Bravo Company and two Combined Anti-Armor Team platoons are due to depart in the first weeks of October on a special mission to secure a “high-value U.S. military facility” in Iraq. Killion would not elaborate on what the Marines would be guarding.

“We had to create what really came down to a motorized security company” for that mission, he said.

Lastly, the MEB will stand up what Killion calls a “Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team-like platoon replacement” to provide added security for II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group during the Dec. 15 Iraqi parliamentary elections.

So, while the MEB’s AT battalion may not be rotating into Iraq or Afghanistan like other infantry units, it’s been keeping pretty busy.

“We are an atypical battalion,” Killion said. “We are one of the few organizations that, literally, my next mission statement is an e-mail and a plane flight away.”

Ellie