Marines expected back at Pendleton from Iraq

By: North County Times -

Members of the 5th Marine Regiment were expected to return to their base at Camp Pendleton early this morning after a 12-month deployment in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, one of the nation's most violent areas.

The deployment lasted about five months longer than the usual Marine tour of duty in Iraq. An Marine Corps officials said in a written statement that the deployment involved the regiment in the arrest of the captors of Jill Carroll, a reporter with the Christian Scientist Monitor, the expansion of Iraqi police and military units and working with Iraqi forces to secure the area around the city of Fallujah, the scene of two grueling battles earlier in the war.

Col. Larry Nicholson, the regiment's commanding officer said Marines in his regiment were looking forward to returning home after what they consider a successful deployment.

"It has been a long and challenging year for the regiment, but if you asked the Marines if they made a difference, they would say yes. I think the Marines have given their fullest measure," Nicholson said.

Marine officials say dramatic improvement in Fallujah's security has allowed the once-volatile city to become a safe haven for Sunni Muslims fleeing religious violence in Baghdad and other regions in Iraq.