More than 300 U.S. troops from the newly formed Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force are helping to rebuild Iraq’s disintegrated army in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
The unit, made up of troops from Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Twentynine Palms, is training as many as 1,200 Iraqis in six-week blocks to prepare them for a counteroffensive.
“A lot of that is focused on small unit tactics, air ground integration, logistics and sustainment support,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Finnerty, the task force's public affairs officer.
Finnerty, who is stationed with the Marines at Al Asad air base west of Baghdad, said operations so far have been smooth, despite some indirect fire outside of the base.
“The Iraqis have done a really good job of providing security in the region and in the area to deal with those situations,” Finnerty said. “So our Marines have not participated in direct combat with ISIS on the ground.”
The training mission is part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S.-led coalition to strike back against the terrorist group, which has seized large portions of Iraq.
Finnerty said the Marines are also helping to secure the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to ensure diplomacy continues.
The new unit, which became operational on Oct. 1, was created 18 months ago to provide quick response to humanitarian and combat emergencies throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in the Middle East.
“We came in not planning for this, but they’ve shown their flexibility, their adaptability and their capability to respond to this mission set," Finnerty said.