By Cpl. Jennifer Pirante, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force
I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) received its fourth and fifth Navy Unit Commendation award during a ceremony on base Thursday.
The awards were presented on behalf of the secretary of the Navy for meritorious service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If you could take that laurel, as the chaplain calls it, and run it through film, imagine the stories that that would tell,” said Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific. “This is a historic day, recognizing the sacrifices of everybody who served on both occasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
According to the award citation, the unit served during assigned missions as Multinational Force-West from Feb. 10, 2008, to Feb. 8, 2009, in support of OIF. During that time, Marines with the unit worked to enhance security, improve civil and resourceful infrastructure, healthcare and government. Because of the dedication of I MEF Marines, Al Anbar province transitioned to Provincial Iraqi Control and held the first Iraqi-led provincial elections in which a record of approximately 346,000 Al Anbar citizens voted, the citation read.
The NUC award also recognizes the unit for its meritorious service during assigned missions from April 12, 2010 to March 26, 2011, in support of OEF. According the award citation, Marines with the unit showed invaluable dedication during combat, utilizing aviation and ground assets. The unit was also recognized for service support and the role it played in conducting counter-insurgency operations across Helmand and Nimroz provinces. I MEF conducted counterinsurgency operations in an effort to free the Afghan people from the oppressive Taliban resurgence and help re-establish infrastructure.
“I’m very proud to be able to put that laurel up on top of our colors, and I’d ask each and every one of you to rededicate yourself to the people who gave their all, who walked away sometimes wounded, because that rededication is important,” said Toolan. “That streamer is not going to be the last one that goes up there. The reality is [that] this world is full of problems, but it stands as a symbol of what we are dedicated to.”
Headquarters Marine Corps published the announcement, Sept 12, in Marine Administrative Message 492/12. The message states, personnel permanently assigned or attached to the unit who were present in Afghanistan and participated in the actions for which the unit was cited are authorized to wear the award.
“I’m very, very proud of what you do day in and day out,” Terry G. Robling said. “And I’m very proud to be here and be able to put that streamer on with Lt. Gen. Toolan because it’s a complete I MEF effort.”
As the color guard lowered the unit’s flag before the command, Toolan and Robling pinned two stars to the NUC streamer, which already bears awards for I MEF’s service during Somalia, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.