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thedrifter
11-14-08, 09:25 AM
MILITARY: Mark Walker's trip snippets

By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

Editor's Note: Reporter Mark Walker is traveling through the Middle East with Camp Pendleton's Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland.

"Sign me up." That's what Camp Pendleton's Sgt. Maj. Dennis Reed said he hears repeatedly from young Marines in Iraq's Anbar province who are wanting to re-enlist.

That willingness comes with a telling caveat: They'll re-enlist on the spot if Reed can assure them they'll be sent to Afghanistan to join the fight in that country.

The vow is a reflection of the calm being reported by the military and Iraqi authorities throughout the once-volatile region west of Baghdad where a majority of Marines in Iraq are stationed.

Things have stabilized so much in recent months that numerous reports have cited troops completing their seven-month assignments there without firing a single shot in anger.

Reed, the top enlisted man from Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force, said he expects to hear the re-enlistment bargain again when he meets with troops at various points in Anbar over the next few days.

To date, Reed has not been able to grant any of their requests, in part because the Pentagon has not moved to substantially reduce the number of Marines serving in Anbar.

Reed is among a contingent of brass visiting Marine bases with Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, head of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of Marine troops in the Middle East.

Ellie