Farewell of the Marines from Iraq

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Maj. Kiplyn Carpenter
  • United States Force - West, Iraq
Jan. 23, 11 p.m. marked the end of the Marines in Iraq as an organization. II Marine Expeditionary Force (fwd) conducted a Transfer of Authority ceremony with the First Armored Division without a relief in place from any incoming unit. United States Force-West (formally Multi National Forces-West) merged with United States Division-Center (formally Multi National Division-Baghdad) and ceased to exist.

After six years, over 850 Marines and Sailors killed in combat and another 8,800 wounded, we have completed our mission. At our peak, we had almost 26,000 Marines and Sailors on deck, close to 200 aircraft, over 380,000 pieces of ground equipment, and were averaging close to 2,000 significant events a month. We have added a whole new generation of heroes; and names like Al Nasiriyah, Fallujah and Ramadi will be added to our history books.

Words can't begin to explain the magnitude of effort and sacrifice our Marines and Sailors have gone through to help the Iraqi people. Each year since the initial invasion, Marines and Sailors from all over the Corps have been a part of the revolving I MEF (fwd) and II MEF (Fwd) Commands. Each year has been different with its own set of unique challenges and each successive year, the incoming organization has built upon the successes of the outgoing organization.

Last year was no different, we didn't have anywhere near the level of fighting that previous MEFs have done. However, we did conduct many operations, maintained security, continued to professionalize the Iraqi Security Forces, developed good governance and economics, assisted with the continued establishment of the Rule of Law and oversaw the peaceful transition of the provincial government. We also had one unique mission that we can call our own, to finally bring the Marine Corps home. Over the past year, we have simultaneously conducted the responsible drawdown of 24,000 personnel, over 34 Combat Outposts and Forward Operating Bases, including Baharia, Rawah, and Camp Taqaddum and sent six years worth of equipment out of theater.

For those of you who served with me this year, thank you. It was long and difficult at times, with our own set of challenges, but we did it. It has been an honor to serve with you.

For those of you who have left your boot prints over here at least once during the last six years; thanks to you too. You set the stage for us to finish the job. It has been costly, it has been challenging, it has taken a while with quite a few dark days. But, in the end, it was worth it.

All Marines and Sailors, including those who remained stateside have contributed to the overall success of the Marines and Sailors in Iraq and; all of us have known someone who didn't make it back alive or has permanent injuries. It is up to us to ensure that those who follow never forgot their sacrifice or what we did here.

Collectively, we have added another illustrious chapter to the successful story of our Marine Corps. One that all of us can be proud of.

Semper Fidelis,