Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #:2004122121342
Story by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 2, 2004) --
The Navy and Marine Corps’ top civilian recently stated that the road to stabilizing Iraq will be a long one, despite the U.S. military’s success in stamping out insurgency in Fallujah.
During a visit here Nov. 27, 2004, the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Gordon R. England told Marines and Sailors of the 1st Force Service Support Group and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing they “did a great job in Fallujah.”
“This country is running great because of what you do,” said Gordon, addressing Marines and Sailors inside an aircraft hangar. “I thank you for what you’re doing, and I thank your families.”
He also said defeating insurgents and finding weapons caches in Fallujah is but one step towards helping the interim Iraqi government defeat the insurgency and hold planned elections in January.
“You can’t win the war by just winning battles,” said England. “You win the war by developing the economy – rebuilding homes, creating jobs.”
England visited Marines and Sailors during a three-day trip throughout Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, which is under operational control of I Marine Expeditionary Force. More than 30,000 Marines, Sailors and soldiers of the I MEF have been conducting security and stability operations in Iraq since April at the behest of the interim Iraqi government.
The Secretary of the Navy visited Marines and Sailors of the I MEF and subordinate commands during a three-day tour of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. He spent Thanksgiving Day with Marines and Sailors of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and 1st Force Service Support Group at Al Asad, Iraq, before heading to Camp Taqaddum.
“I’d love to have you all home for Thanksgiving, but America needs you here,” said England, while addressing Marines and Sailors inside an aircraft hangar here.
He also answered Marines’ questions on a number of topics, to include the future role of the Marine Corps in Iraq.
Although he didn’t specify what the Corps’ role in Iraq will be beyond next year, England did say that the U.S. military will “probably have a force here of some sort for a long time.”
The bottom line, he said, is that stabilizing Iraq, like any country, takes time. England made references to post World War II-era Japan and Germany, stating that U.S. military forces continue to have a presence in these countries.
“The President said we will stay the course, and we have to stay the course,” he said.
The Camp Lejeune, N.C.,-based II MEF will relieve the Camp Pendleton, Calif.,-based I MEF next spring, keeping a significant Marine force in Iraq for at least another year.
Currently, several Marine units from II MEF have augmented I MEF in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Within the 1st FSSG, which provides all logistical support to Marine forces in Iraq, II MEF Marines have filled critical roles here, such as military policemen to provide security for bases and convoys, communication operations and military vehicle operators.
There may also be an increase of manpower within the Marine Corps to reduce the amount of deployments Marines make to Iraq, according to England.
Just as the U.S. military hires civilians stateside for certain positions, the Corps will continue to use civilian contractors in Iraq for service jobs, such as filling sandbags, building security barriers and serving food. This will continue to free up Marines to perform work in other areas.
"We are using more and more contractors to do various things, and I can tell you that's not necessarily bad," Hagee said here in July.
Operating this way works better for the Corps, said Hagee. He opposes adding more Marines to the ranks; he'd rather reconfigure the current force to handle the mission at hand.
England echoed Hagee’s position on the subject during his visit here.
“We’re working hard to free up billets so we can get people into military units and out of jobs civilians can do,” said England. “We will continue to do this across the services.”
Already, the Marine Corps has added several thousand to its total troop strength in support of the global war on terrorism. Additionally, more and more reservists are being called upon to help support operations in Iraq and abroad. Their contributions have greatly helped America make progress in Iraq, said England.
More than 5,000 reserve Marines are currently serving with their active duty counterparts in Iraq – an increase of about two thousand over the past eight months.
Stabilizing Iraq is paramount to maintaining peace throughout the Middle East, said England. But until elections are held in Iraq and a permanent government is established, U.S. military forces can expect continued resistance from insurgents throughout surrounding cities and towns.
“We still have some work to do,” said England. “But when we get that accomplished, I believe we’ll be on the same road (to success) as we have been in other parts of Iraq.”
Marines with the 1st FSSG have contributed enormously to Operation Iraqi Freedom, ensuring supplies such as vehicle parts, ammunition, food and gasoline are delivered quickly to Marines on the front lines.
Prior to and during recent combat operations in Fallujah, 1st FSSG stepped up logistical support, increasing fuel storage capacity and delivery for Marine forces in Ramadi, Taqaddum, and Fallujah to accommodate an increased operational tempo. Additionally, 1st FSSG units provided more than 112,000 Meals, Ready-to-Eat, nearly 228,000 bottles of water, and supplied ammunition for 17 units.
“It’s a remarkable operation,” said England of the 1st FSSG’s logistical support. “I commend everyone in this command.”
Just like Marines of generations past who fought against fascism and communism, Marines today continue to make progress in the global war on terrorism, he said.
During his visit here, England awarded Purple Hearts to four Marines – three from 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, a Camp Lejeune-based artillery unit serving as provisional riflemen here, and one from Combat Service Support Battalion 1. He also awarded a Purple Heart to another CSSB-1 Marine at Camp Fallujah two days prior.
“You’re the heroes here. You just don’t know it yet,” he said.
Photos included with story: