News: Last Marines leave Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn
Story by Cpl. Lucas Vega
UMM QSAR, Iraq - The last 12 United States Marines safely departed Umm Qasr, Iraq to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 14, ending the branches’ presence in Iraq which began March 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Now Operation New Dawn, the 13 members of Iraqi Marine Training Team – 03, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, arrived in Iraq mid-May with the mission of training the Iraqi Marine Corps and Navy. IqMTT-03 also included a United States Navy corpsman.
During the team’s five-month tour, they trained the Iraqi Marines and sailors in vehicle borne search and seizure, entry control point/vehicle control point procedures, leadership development, Marine Corps Martial Arts, Key Leadership engagements and communications.
Prior to the team’s departure, the Marine Corps did not have any units left in Iraq, only this small training team.
“This is officially the end of our mission here in Iraq,” said Col. Eric Thomas, the Marine Forces Central Command Marine Coordination Element- Kuwait officer in charge, as he addressed the Marines during an informal ceremony held at the forward operating base. “You should all be proud to be a part of this day in Marine Corps history.”
Major operations in Iraq for the Marine Corps ended in January 2010. The final Marines in Iraq were the third of, two teams prior to them who worked cooperatively, training the Iraqi navy and Marine Corps. The first team, IqMTT-01 arrived in 2009.
“The beginning is just as important as the end,” said Maj. Monte Powell, commander, IqMTT-03, discussing the influence Marines have made on the Iraqi military throughout Operation New Dawn. “It’s definitely a historic event to be a part of…to be the last Marine team here and understanding the sacrifice of those before us.”
Powell, a Tulsa, Okla. native, was in charge of the last Marine operation in Iraq. He described the footprint engraved not only on the nation of Iraq, but the skills and knowledge forever embedded in the Iraqi Marines and sailors.
“The Marine Corps relationship with the Iraqi Marines will be an everlasting bond, “Powell shared in a media release from Third Army public affairs. “The Marine Corps warrior ethos and spirit is cemented with the Iraqi Marines and they will continue to improve and defend the country of Iraq against all enemies both foreign and domestic.”
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor for the Iraqi Marine and sailor training engagement was 1st Lt. Mark Lowett, an air support control officer from Marine Air Support Squadron Two. Lowett individually augmented to deploy to Iraq in support of IqMTT – 03’s mission shortly after graduating the Basic School in Quantico, Va.
Throughout the training, Lowett expressed the impression he believed the team left on the Iraqi Marines and sailors.
“I think a lot of them [Iraqi Marines] were impressed with the training we had to offer, “said Lowett. “They were always interested, always excited and eager to train and learn.”
Lowett explained that a large majority of the Iraqi Marines did not have the opportunity to receive hands on martial arts instruction. However, Lowett and his team of training advisers were forwarded the chance to demonstrate a wide variety of martial arts techniques for about 100-150 Iraqi Marines during the 5-month tour.
“It’s important to make a statement to the Iraqi Marines and the country that we as Marines are leaving a positive image that they will never forget,” said Lowett, a Chicago native.
U.S. military forces have been training Iraq’s military and security forces to promote country security and stability for more than half a decade. The U.S. Marines trained Iraqi military and security forces, ensuring that once the U.S. military presence in Iraq ends, the nation is capable of conducting independent counterinsurgency operations, as well as being tactically, operationally, and logistically proficient.