By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2011 - About 1,400 service members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will deploy to southwestern Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command officials announced today.
The 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines is currently aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group operating in the Indian Ocean. The unit's home base is Camp Lejeune, N.C., and is the Theater Reserve Force.
The unit will go ashore with infantry, aviation and logistics assets.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, requested the extra Marines. He did so after consultations with Afghan government officials. The Marines and sailors of the unit will "exploit gains already achieved against insurgents and more rapidly complete construction of critical infrastructure."
The unit will move in shortly and take advantage of the gains made by fellow Marines in Helmand province. The added Marine contingent also will enable coalition and Afghan forces to expedite the clear and hold phase of operations this winter, officials said.
"The enemy has presented us with a great opportunity to further our success against him," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the commander of Regional Command-Southwest. "The MEU gives us the capability to take advantage of that opportunity without pulling forces away from other on-going operations. As [the enemy] desperately tries to disperse for the winter, our intent is to simply overwhelm him with an increased operational tempo that he'll be unable to match."
A U.S. Central Command release called the move a "short term" deployment. Pentagon officials said the unit will be in Afghanistan for about three months and then re-deploy back to their vessels.
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