FORWARD OPERATING BASE DUKE, Iraq -- Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) arrived here and in other forward operating bases recently to conduct Security and Stability Operations in the An Najaf and Al Qadasiyah provinces.
To facilitate this mission in the south-central region of Iraq, MEU personnel will operate out of three different FOBs -- Duke, Echo and Hotel -- located outside the major cities of An Najaf and Ad Diwaniyah. The MEU’s aviation combat element will operate out of FOB Duke as well as Al Asad Air Base, located west of Baghdad.
A battalion of Army engineers, two platoons of Army military police, an El Salvadorian infantry battalion, and various other units will augment the MEU as they conduct SASO, which includes training elements of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Police.
Earlier this month, the MEU offloaded the ships of the Belleau Wood Expeditionary Strike Group and conducted a week of training in Kuwait before traveling north to the three FOBs by vehicle convoy and military aircraft. The MEU will take responsibility of the two provinces from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Dragon-- made up of elements of the 1st Infantry Division-- once an official turnover between the two units is complete.
Task Force Dragon assumed control of the area of operations during the last month, relieving elements of the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who had been extended twice in Iraq.
The provinces the MEU is taking control of aren't entirely new to Marines. After major combat was declared over, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted SASO in An Najaf, and 3/5 had the same mission in Ad Diwaniyah.
The MEU is comprised of the Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (reinforced); and MEU Service Support Group 11.
The MEU's length of stay is currently undetermined.