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ARLINGTON, Va. — About 32,000 Marines and other servicemembers attached to the I Marine Expeditionary Force are eligible for the Navy Unit Commendation for their actions between August 2004 and February 2005, according to the Marine Corps.

The award recognizes units that have distinguished themselves by “outstanding heroism and action against the enemy,” or the unit equivalent of the Silver Star, said Lee Freund, head of the Military Awards Branch, which is part of Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

“By their outstanding courage, resourcefulness and aggressive fighting spirit in combat against the enemy, the officers and enlisted personnel of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Reinforced) reflected great credit upon themselves and upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service,” according to the NUC citation.

During their time in Iraq, the Marines and other servicemembers attached to the I MEF, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., saw in Najaf and Fallujah the toughest urban fighting since Vietnam, the citation says.

“Throughout 24 days of intense conflict in An Najaf, the Marines conducted destruction raids on insurgent strongholds, captured weapons caches, and engaged in fierce close-quarters battle,” the citation says.

In the end, the Marines killed more than 1,500 of the enemy and preserved the Iman Ali Shrine and Mosque complex, the citation says.

“In response to violent insurgent actions in al Fallujah, a coalition force of 12,500, led by I MEF, boldly breached the city’s fortifications and destroyed a heavily armed and well-entrenched fanatical enemy,” the citation reads. “Countless acts of individual bravery in Al Fallujah resulted in more than 2,000 enemy killed or captured as the Marines, Soldiers and Sailors fiercely fought and cleared the city, house by house.”

A complete listing of units and individuals eligible for the award is listed in MARADMIN (Marine Administrative Message) 609/06.

“Units that are not listed that believe they are eligible for participation in this NUC may submit a letter via the chain of command under which they operated during the period cited in this award,” the MARADMIN says.

But Freund said the list is “as an inclusive as human beings can make it.”

For more information, go to: www.usmc.mil.

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