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thedrifter
01-18-07, 09:25 AM
Marine mission in Iraq clear
January 18,2007
CHRISSY VICK
DAILY NEWS STAFF

Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Logistics Group will soon head to the Al Anbar Province of Iraq with a clear mission: achieve "swift" Iraqi control.

That is something for which the commanding general says the group is well-prepared.

"The level of training we've received has just been phenomenal," Brig. Gen. James A. Kessler said Wednesday afternoon. "Teaching Marines and sailors that the key to our success is the Iraqi people is pivotal."

Training has been revised in the last year to include language and cultural education specific to interacting with the Iraqi people and is "critically important" to the success of the mission, he said.

Kessler, who assumed command of 2nd MLG in May, is one of more than 200 Marines and sailors of the command element that will leave Saturday for the year-long deployment. The group's immediate goal is a smooth transition as part of the yearly rotation with California-based I MLG.

Marines and sailors of 2nd MLG provide the logistics combat element of II Marine Expeditionary Force, which will take command from I MEF in coming months. MLG provides general engineering, transportation, supplies, medical and dental support, maintenance and repair of equipment.

"Those are the key things we bring to the fight," Kessler said. "Some of those may seem mundane, but they're crucial. In getting supplies faster, repairs done faster, it allows (II MEF) to execute their missions better and it keeps them running smoother."

And in a place like the Al Anbar Province, time is valuable.

"The Al Anbar Province is a pretty dynamic place as you can imagine," Kessler said. "But the issues are different there than other parts of Iraq."

U.S. forces deal less with Sunni-Shiite clashes and more with the problem of al-Qaida, he said.

"It is changing," Kessler said. "The Iraqis are getting tired of the actions by (al-Qaida). We've seen an increase of understanding (among the Iraqi people) of why we're there. And many Iraqis are seeing the value of working with us so we can hand it over to them."

Seeing those improvements could be one of many reasons the retention rate among Marines and sailors is still high, he said. Approximately half of the 4,000 Marines and sailors deploying this year with 2nd MLG have already been to Iraq at least one time.

"Most of those are volunteers to go back," Kessler said. "I think they go to accomplish some really important and vital missions."

And, often, time spent with buddies during the mission creates a bond.

"There's an element to being in that kind of environment that draws the Marines together," Kessler said. "The camaraderie established there is unique and probably impossible to replicate in another environment."

One year from now, Kessler hopes to be able to say the Marines and sailors of 2nd MLG have been a part of accomplishing the mission they've set out with II MEF to do. But at the very least, he knows he'll be able to say he's proud of what they've done.

That's because he already is.

"When I talked to my Marines and sailors this morning, I told them that in 27 years of the Marine Corps I don't think I've ever been more motivated than I am now," he said. "I wish the American public could see what I see in these young men and women. They're extremely committed. They're patriots."

Contact staff writer Chrissy Vick at cvick@freedomenc.com or by calling 353-1171, ext. 239.

Ellie