San Diego-based Marines and sailors with the newly formed Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Central Command are scheduled to return to Camp Pendleton on Thursday after a seven-month deployment to the Middle East.
The unit, made up of up of 2,300 combat infantry Marines, logistic forces and aviation assets from Camp Pendleton, Miramar and Twentynine Palms, was heavily involved in Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition campaign focused on combating the self-proclaimed Islamic State terror group.
Part of the force was stationed in Iraq at Al Asad air base, where they trained 1,200 Iraqis in six-week blocks to prepare them for a counteroffensive against ISIS. The work began after the terror group had seized large portions of Iraq and left a trail of murders and atrocities.
“We came in not planning for this, but they’ve shown their flexibility, their adaptability and their capability to respond to this mission set," said 1st Lt. Matthew Finnerty, the task force's public affairs officer in a recent interview with KPBS.
The Marines also helped secure the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to ensure diplomacy continued, Finnerty said.
The new unit, which became operational on Oct. 1, was created two years ago to provide quick response to humanitarian and combat emergencies throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in the Middle East.