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A U.S. Army battalion has been brought into Anbar province to help reinforce the U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops in the area near Fallujah, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) now falls under the command of Marine Regimental Combat Team 5 and will be assigned to the Karmah region, just northeast of Fallujah.

“Having the light infantry skill set of the 3/509th will be a force multiplier for RCT-5 in our quest to reduce violence in the city of Karmah,” Col. Larry Nicholson, commander of RCT-5, said in a news release. “While we regret the loss of the 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division and wish them luck in their reassignment, we welcome the 3/509th and look forward to working with them until the 4th Brigade returns.”

It’s the first time since World War II that the unit has been activated, officials said. The battalion, stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska, “18 months ago consisted of zero people,” said Maj. Paul Edgar, the battalion’s executive officer. “It was a plan on paper only.”

The battalion started training in October 2005, he said.

U.S. military officials say that after the Battle of Fallujah, many of the foreign fighters who escaped the city moved to Karmah, which also was home to many former Iraqi intelligence officers and high-ranking Baathists.

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