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The new Marine unit responsible for security and operations in the western Euphrates River Valley and southwestern Anbar province has taken command in the area, officials said Wednesday.

Regimental Combat Team 5 relieved Regimental Combat Team 2 in a ceremony at Camp Ripper on Tuesday. RCT-5 was last deployed in Iraq for a year in 2006.

“As we pass the torch from RCT-2 to RCT-5, it’s an honor to welcome Col. Pat Malay and RCT-5 back to Al Anbar,” Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, the Multi-National Force – West ground element commander, said in a statement. “Many challenges remain, but the people of Al Anbar, you have my word that the men and women of RCT-5 will continue to stand with you in the days ahead.

“Today, one only need walk through the streets of Husaybah, Karabilah, Rawah, Anah, Haditha, Hit, Barwanah, Baghdadi to see what a difference a year can make,” Gurganus said. “And citizens now gather on street corners and in cafes that were once battlegrounds.”

Regimental Combat Team 5 is deployed from Camp Pendleton, Calif. Malay commanded 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment during the battle of Fallujah in late 2004.

“We’ve seen enough violence here,” Malay said in a statement. “Now is the time to build; now is the time for rule of law; now is the time to put those pieces in place which will ensure peace and prosperity for Iraq.”

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