1500 Lejeune Marines To Afghanistan By Christmas

The Pentagon says about 16,000 U.S. troops will go into Afghanistan in the first wave of the new surge approved by President Barack Obama.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman announced Monday that about 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will leave for Afghanistan later this month. Military sources have said the first troops are expected to arrive by Christmas.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen is at Camp Lejeune, giving the Marines who will soon deploy a pep talk and answering questions.

Mullen told the Marines they were the "best fighting force we've ever had." The admiral told them he is confident they can succeed in their endeavors; their goal is to get the Afghan security forces ready to start the transition.

Mullen says the Marines need to help turn the momentum around in Afghanistan. "This is not just about Afghanistan, its a regional approach, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it doesn't eliminate other places in that region."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says the insurgency in Afghanistan has grown for the past three years and that sending 30,000 U.S. troops in response is an attempt to blunt that momentum.

Mullen told the audience of about a thousand Marines that military leaders believe they have between 18 and 24 months to reverse the insurgency or it might not be possible.

Members of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines will be the first group to go. In fact, Camp Lejeune says an advance party and their equipment is already en-route. Eventually, some 8,000 Marines from II MEF will be headed to Afghanistan.

The Army will also begin sending in the first of its forces -- a training brigade from Fort Drum, N.Y. Whitman said about 4,100 support forces from various places will also deploy early. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the deployment orders last week.

The units currently slated for deployment from Camp Lejeune are:

- 2nd Marine Regiment Headquarters, 2nd Marine Division
- 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division
- 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division
- 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division
- Company A, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division
- Company B, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division
- Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division
- Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
- 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
- Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group
- Combat Logistics Company 16, 2nd Marine Logistics Group
- Detachment, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group

These forces will join Camp Lejeune forces already in Afghanistan currently serving with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

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