The footprint is smaller, and the . The mission is limited. But Marines are officially back in Iraq even as the U.S. decreases its role in Iraq, the impression is concrete — and some say U.S. troops could end up deploying might be there for decades.
Officials have been tight-lipped about exactly how many of the roughly 3,000 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq are Marines. But leathernecks have been carrying out Ccrisis response management and advisory missions there operations have been ongoing for almost a year after militants with the Islamic State group began taking large swaths of land across the country.
In June, a Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team arrived to bolster security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Iraq. Later that summer, about 150 North Carolina-based infantrymen, then assigned to the embers of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, took over for as the FAST Marines returned.
In October, members of the Corps' newest land-based crisis response unit based out of Kuwait picked up the embassy security mission. Marines with that same unit — Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command — have also been is training Iraqi forces who are fighting members as they push forward against ISIS militants.
Watching the Islamic State group gain strongholds in places Marines shed blood years ago was tough for many. But Marine veteran Iraq War veteran and Navy Cross recipient Jeremiah Workman said seeing the Iraqis take some of the areas back proves that Marines' efforts there were not in vain. , but "our work with the Iraqi military has helped them come a long way," said "our work with the Iraqi military has helped them come a long way." said . In 2006, Workman received the second-highest military valor award for his heroics in Fallujah as a corporal during a 2004 operation.
"To see what I've seen versus where they're at now — to see them moving in firing teams and squads — they've come a long way, and it will pay off, especially in this fight against ISIS," said Workman, who received the second-highest military valor award in 2006 for his heroics in Fallujah as a corporal during a 2004 operation. "It , and it will pay off, especially in this fight against ISIS."
A combination of airborne firepower and Iraqi ground forces was successfully in pusheding Islamic State militants out of a city in Anbar province Al Baghdadi, Iraq, in March. In mid-April, This week, coalition members regained control over the Baiji oil refinery in Salah ad Din Iraq's Salahaddin province, and forces also recently regained some control in Ramadi.
Elliot Ackerman, a Silver Star recipient who left the Corps as a captain after serving as a team leader with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said just because the U.S. declared that the war was over in 2011 doesn't mean it was. Having troops return to Iraq just three years after they left means their work wasn't done there — and might not be for years to come, he said. "Just because we declared the war was over doesn't mean it was over," said Elliot Ackerman, a Silver Star recipient who left the Corps as a captain after serving as a team leader with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
"It doesn't mean that our troops are engaged in combat operations, but a footprint — similar to the one we have in Korea and Europe — will continue," he Ackerman said. "One that indicates it's under U.S. influence and says we have a stake in the game." he said.
"[Marines] showing up as advisors is very different from the onset of the Iraq War," Ackerman said. However, while previous missions focused on counterinsurgency, Ackerman said advisors were and continue to be a strong asset for the Iraqi military.
No matter how things mature in the next few months or even years, Ackerman said based Marines' current missions in Iraq indicates that the on these missions alone, it seems the "U.S. will continue to have a footprint in the Middle East," Ackerman said.
Marines might not be on the offensive, but Workman said "We may not be on the offensive, but teaching, and training and mentoring the Iraqi forces will help them hone their skills for the long haul, it can only help them hone their skills in the long run," Workman said in agreement.
Here's a look into how Marines are conducting the current mission in Iraq. below: