IRAQ – About 2,100 Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took control of the An Najaf and Al Qadisiyah provinces from the 1st Infantry Division’s Task Force Dragon on Saturday.

They will be supported by Army civil affairs, military police and engineer units and an infantry battalion from El Salvador.

The special operations-capable MEU is expected to train and equip Iraqi security forces and conduct combat operations from its three forward operating bases south of Baghdad as part of the Polish-led Multinational Division, according to a news release on the unit’s Web site.

The MEU left San Diego in May, about a month earlier than planned, according to the release. It will be deployed for an undetermined length of time.

The Marines arrived in Iraq last month, disembarking from the USS Belleau Wood expeditionary strike group in Kuwait. After a week’s training, the unit moved into Iraq.

The MEU is comprised of a command element, two companies of the 4th Marine Regiment’s Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, the reinforced Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 and MEU Service Support Group 11.

According to the MEU commander, Col. Anthony Haslam, more than half of the unit’s Marines and sailors have previously served in Iraq.

The 11th MEU’s Web site can be found at:

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