State Department Salutes MEB

27 Jul 2002 | Eric Steinkopff (Jacksonville Daily News) 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The last time these Marines and sailors saw Ryan Crocker, they were all half a world from home and hip deep in problems.

July 26 at Camp Lejeune marked a different set of circumstances for members of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan when the embassy was reopened in Kabul in January. Crocker, deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, came to reward 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Lima Company with the State Department's superior honor award.

Crocker said the Marines and sailors earned the honor for their work in reopening the embassy.

"It was a concept brilliantly conceived and executed," Crocker said. "I've seen a lot of service but I have never seen anything work as well. No one could have done it better.

"The foreign services and the Marine Corps has long been linked and they made history in Afghanistan," Crocker said. "This award is rarely given in the Foreign Service and only a few select Marines have earned it in the past. As far as I am aware, this award has never been presented to a regular military unit."

Approximately 100 Marines and sailors arrived in Afghanistan in December, relieving a skeleton crew from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who seized the shell of the old U.S. Embassy.

"The first couple of days were difficult," said 1st Lt. Javier Diaz, 1st Platoon commander for Lima Company. "There were no toilets, the place was in disarray, and it was obviously vandalized."

Taliban and al-Qaida had used it as a headquarters, so everything had been broken and there were bullet holes everywhere, Diaz said.

The only thing that was left untouched was the U.S. Embassy seal over the doorway.

Members of the infantry company got little sleep over the next three weeks because while one-third of the force manned defensive positions, the rest cleaned up the debris, improved fighting positions and turned the complex into a fully functioning embassy.

"There was a lot of dust and debris making it difficult to breathe," Diaz said. "We set up positions along the perimeter and on the roof top to view people exiting and entering the embassy."

After they strengthened the defense, they took turns standing post in an area where it was dangerous to be an American.

"We constantly changed the defense so no one could see a pattern and plan an attack," Diaz said. "We also began to establish an American presence by playing colors in the morning and taps in the evening so they would always know that we were there."

In January, Crocker arrived and the Marines gave him the protection due a U.S. embassy ambassador; as well as provided security for visiting dignitaries. That was the way the situation remained until April when both Crocker and Lima Company departed.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit