JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — After 22 months of operations, II Marine Expeditionary Force Forward was deactivated, but leaders say the colors will one day be unfurled to answer the nation’s call.
At the Officer’s Club aboard Camp Lejeune, hundreds of Marines gathered Friday afternoon to celebrate the deactivation of II MEF Forward, a unit that has deployed multiple times to both Iraq and Afghanistan during the last 13 years of the Global War on Terror. Their latest deployment to Afghanistan, according to Maj. Gen. Walter Lee Miller, the commanding general of the unit, had a revolving mission. In the beginning, he said, it was a counter-insurgency fight; but before redeploying to the United States, the Marines focused on advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.
“Casing the colors was an honor and it was an honor to serve the Marines of II MEF Forward,” Miller said. “We did a heck of a job while we were over there and we built a very strong team. They became a very tight organization and they stand dissolved today, but Marines are used to that. Despite where they go, they should be proud of what they accomplished here.”
With the colors cased, Miller also said that there will come another time when they will be uncased.
“When the nation is ready and needs another MEF Forward this is where they will turn,” Miller said. “We will build it rapidly, establish teams and deploy rapidly. The nation can rest assured that we will be here to answer the call.”
Sgt. Robert Fraser, 28, of Jacksonville has been with the unit as part of Miller’s protective security detail. Fraser said he feels as though he has learned a great deal about leadership and will effectively be able to mentor and guide junior Marines upon his return to the military police community.
“It’s bittersweet because it has been an absolutely great command to work for,” Fraser said. “Every single day I woke up with a smile and looked forward to going to work. While I am really going to miss this place, I am excited to get back to the platoon setting where I can make an impact on junior Marines.”
As the Marines and sailors of the unit go their separate ways, Fraser wants people to know that they did make a difference in Afghanistan. The Afghans, according to Fraser, have been set up for success and that over the last year, it wasn’t the Marines fighting every battle. Now, he said, the Afghans are in the lead and the Marine Corps is in a leadership role.
Having deployed with the command element of the unit was an “exceptional” opportunity, according to Capt. Nick Arthur, 34, of New Bern. The casing, he said, gave him a good feeling because alongside his fellow Marines, he feels as though they accomplished their mission and did their part to help the Afghans secure their own country.
“We did everything in our power to give the Afghans the tools they need to defend their own country,” he said. “The job wasn’t always glamorous but we worked hard and taught them everything we could. ...If they use everything we gave them, they can build a strong and prosperous country.”