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Monday, April 16, 2007

15th MEU Returns to Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group

15 April 2007
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW) Joshua Valcarcel
USS Boxer Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BOXER, At sea – The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (Special Operations Capable) completed its return to USS Boxer (LHD 4) Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) April 14, after conducting security operations in Iraq since mid-November.

While in Iraq, the 15th MEU provided physical protection for Americans and Iraqi citizens and security for the country’s developing democracy. The MEU’s Air Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team and Combat Logistics Battalion worked together to coordinate air support, ground support and regional situational awareness to accomplish their mission.

“We accomplished so much out there,” said Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, data chief for the 15th MEU. “We were divided throughout Iraq, manning entry control points, carrying out local patrols and looking for insurgents. It was a great team effort.”

The Marines met Boxer in the North Arabian Gulf and returned to the ship using helicopters and landing craft, air cushions. The first group arrived on Boxer April 8. It took several more days to complete the return of nearly 2,000 Marines.

“It’s a huge relief to be back on the ship,” said Lance Cpl. Chansen Hesiamurphy, a Marine assigned to Boxer’s Combat Cargo department. “It’s nice to have the little things in life again like a bed and shower.”

During the week of their return the MEU loaded several tons of ammunition, weapons, nearly 30 aircraft including AV-8B Harriers and UH-1 Hueys, and numerous heavy transport and patrol vehicles.

“It’s like a huge puzzle trying to fit everything back on board,” said Sgt. James Shawhan, a Marine with Boxer’s Combat Cargo department. “It takes a lot of coordination between our Marines ashore and Boxer to keep track of everything returning to the ship.”

Boxer, along with the 15th MEU, will leave the Arabian Gulf after operating in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility for almost 5 months.

“Everyone came together and did what needed to be done,” said Sava. “We’re a tight-knit family and everyone took care of each other.”

Boxer is the flagship for Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group which is currently conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in support of U.S. 5th Fleet. MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility encompasses about 7.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 27 countries, includes three critical chokepoints at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

Photo: Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) board a landing craft, air cushion to return to USS Boxer (LHD 4) after completing operations in Iraq. Boxer is the flagship for Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group which is currently operating in the Arabian Gulf conducting Maritime Security Operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet. Official U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW) Joshua Valcarcel.

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