Marine brigade gets Presidential Unit Citation for Afghan efforts
WASHINGTON — More than two and a half years after launching a siege to recapture Marjah, roughly 28,000 troops, as well as Afghan and coalition forces and civilian employees associated with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade were honored with a Presidential Unit Citation during a ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The award is the unit equivalent of the Navy Cross, given for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy,” according to the Marine Corps’ award criteria.
The citation credits the brigade, which deployed in April 2009, with conducting “the most holistic counterinsurgency campaign since the coalition presence in Afghanistan began in 2001.”
The brigade “struck decisively at the heart of the Taliban insurgency” with an operation in July 2009, returning business and schools to villages across the region, according to the citation.
A subsequent operation, launched in February 2010, regained control of the insurgent safe haven of Marjah. In the process, the brigade “tangibly improved the geo-political landscape of Southwestern Afghanistan,” the citation reads.
The last Marine unit to receive the Presidential Unit Citation was I Marine Expeditionary Force (Reinforced), which earned it for actions March 21 to April 24, 2003, the beginning of the war in Iraq.
The brigade was commanded during the deployment by then-Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson.
At the MEB’s activation ceremony in 2009, the commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, said the deployment would formalize the Marine Corps’ commitment to Afghanistan.
In 2010, when I Marine Expeditionary Force assumed responsibility for the unit’s area of operations, then-Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said Helmand province was a different place because of the unit’s efforts.
Helmand provincial Governor Gulab Mangal also said things had changed because of the MEB.
“People have new hope for a bright future,” he said at the 2010 ceremony, according to a press release. “To bring security, peace in Helmand, Marines tried the best to get the trust and confidence of Afghan people. ... MEB-Afghanistan will be remembered in the history of Helmand and Afghanistan.”