KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit began deploying to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan this week to support NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The 24th MEU changed course from its previously scheduled mid-February deployment with the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group to temporarily fill a standing ISAF request for a maneuver force in southern Afghanistan when the President approved the deployment of additional units to Afghanistan in January.
“We are going to attempt to destabilize the insurgent effort and help stabilize the government, particularly in the southern region, and set the stage for the Afghan government to take-over and be in a better position than what they were before,” said Maj. Carl L. McLeod, intelligence officer, 24th MEU, ISAF.
“The National Command Element, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commandant of the Marine Corps decided that the 24th MEU was the best fit for this mission,” said McLeod.
The sudden change in the MEU’s destination hardly fazed the Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, in fact many relish the unusual challenges this deployment will present.
“Now that our deployment was changed to Afghanistan I will actually be doing my job.” said Cpl. Clayton C. Stokes, field radio operator, 1st Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 1/6, 24th MEU, ISAF. “We’ve been preparing non-stop for the past six months.”
The mission ahead conveys a sense of certainty that Marines will make a difference in a set amount of time rather than acting as a force in readiness. For several Iraq-experienced Marines, the change of scenery allows them to extend much needed aid to a war-torn country.
“Marines are war fighters, we tend to cope with any adversity that’s put forth,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul A. Crawford, company gunnery sergeant, Charlie Company, BLT 1/6, 24th MEU, ISAF.
“We are here to make things a little safer and build on our reputation from the last time we were here,” said Crawford, who deployed to Afghanistan with BLT 1/6 in 2004. “We don’t want to leave here with a tarnished reputation, we want to be known for what we have accomplished; make things better here and then go home to our families.”