Over three years have passed since a Marine was killed in combat in Afghanistan, and just over two years since a Marine fell to enemy fire in Iraq.
It’s a positive yet somber milestone for the Corps, a force still trying to escape the quagmire of counterinsurgency conflict that has engulfed the Marines for the past 17 years.
The last Marine killed in combat was 27-year-old artilleryman Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin during Operation Inherent Resolve in northern Iraq.
Cardin and roughly 100 Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, embarked with the 26th Marine Expeditionary had just been sent to a remote outpost in Makhmur, Iraq.
The outpost, which became known as Fire Base Bell, was established as an eventual launching point for Iraqi forces to retake Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul from ISIS militants.
On March 19, 2016, the base was struck by ISIS rocket fire, killing Cardin. He was the second American military combat fatality in Operation Inherent Resolve.
Iraqi forces backed by U.S. air power would eventually go on to liberate Mosul in July 2017.
Over three years have passed since a Marine was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 15, 2014, Sgt. Charles C. Strong, a Marine Raider with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, was killed in an apparent insider attack by an individual wearing Afghan National Army uniform in Herat province, Afghanistan.
Few Marines are operating in Afghanistan today. A small detachment of roughly 300 Marines with Task Force Southwest are deployed to the volatile Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Special operators have continued to support the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. But only recently has conventional Marines been redeployed to the war-torn country.
Task Force Southwest began its first rotation in Afghanistan during spring of 2017 and it’s currently on its second rotation helping train and advise the Afghan 215th Corps.
Corps is suffering less casualties from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, that downtick is due in part to fewer Marines serving on the frontlines in hot spots around the globe.
But those that are deployed to these regions are operating in smaller detachments with less support than accustomed to during the height of the War on Terror, operating in support or advisory positions.