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11th MEU Leaders Share Details of Assisting in Battle Against ISIS

While some of the details are still classified, marines from the 11th MEU told NBC 7, they provided mobile artillery, assisting in the isolation of Raqqa, Syria.

The leadership of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit shared new insight into its recent involvement in the war on terror and how it responded to global threats while serving in the Pacific and Middle East over the past few months.

During the deployment that began in Oct. 2016 and ended earlier this month, marines from the 11th MEU told NBC 7 they provided mobile artillery to support rebel forces being assisted by the U.S. and coalition forces battling ISIS.

The MEU, which received more than a year of training beforehand at Camp Pendleton, assisted in the isolation of Raqqa, Syria.

Other details of the deployment are still classified.

"The task force executed over 400 fire missions and fired more than 4,500 rounds from M777 Howitzers to support our coalition partner,” said Maj. Craig Thomas.

The Commander of the 11th MEU Col. Clay Tipton could not specifically comment on the mission, but he did describe how the leadership was always prepared when called on to provide support with one of their mission sets.

“We're studying the environment, studying the terrain, studying the threats, studying...studying friendlies--no we're anticipating anything that comes up," Tipton said.

The 11th MEU had received more than a year of training before its October deployment in 

The 11th MEU was also called upon to be ready to respond to a possible crisis in South Sudan. The concern was for embassy security as unrest in the country was growing.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Adrian Virges said the 11th MEU is known for being flexible and fast, able to respond in just six hours to any scenario they are tasked to deal with.

“We start looking into it, reading into it, we start planning for it. We don't start from scratch,” Virges said.

In the end, while the marines were ready, they were not needed in South Sudan.

There were other missions that are classified or under another command that the leadership could not discuss, including the January raid in Yemen in which Navy SEAL Ryan Owen was killed.

But the bulk of the work was training the 4,500 marines and sailors from three ships--USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS Comstock. They trained at sea, in the air and on land with host countries in hot weather and jungle terrain, creating a self-sustaining environment--including purified water systems and developing relationships with other nations to secure democracy.

Some of the exercises included the following:

  • Exercise Keen Sword: A combat readiness exercise with U.S. and Japanese forces in Guam
  • Exercise Tiger Strike: A bilateral training with Malaysian Armed Forces, a bilateral exercise with Sri Lankan Marines
  • Exercise Alligator Dagger in Djibouti: Conducting comprehensive amphibious operations to keep warfighting skills ready for U.S. Central Command
  • Exercise Sea Soldier with Omani forces to build mutual warfighting capability
  • Bilateral Exercises with Papua New Guinea to help the country provide security for their upcoming elections and a major international conference in 2018

The leadership described the effort of the marines and sailors as one being in a constant pattern of training and preparedness over the 7-month period.

“The American people would be proud of the young marines and sailors, their focused energy and their focused effort," Tipton said.

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