CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT)–With hugs, kisses and some tears, Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard Camp Lejeune deployed Tuesday morning.
They’ll board the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime security operations and crisis response overseas.
Nearly 3,000 of them said goodbye to their loved ones as they boarded buses heading to transport docks in Mayport, Fl. and Virginia Beach, Va.
“We’re really proud of him, not a lot of people do that or are willing to give up their lives for their country anymore so we’re all extremely proud of the whole team here,” Jeff Tracey, the father of a Marine, said. “Good luck to them all.”
Notably, the MEU took part in real-world operations prior to deployment, supporting relief efforts as part of Defense Support to Civil Authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Key West, Fla., and Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, September to October 2017.
“We’re all excited to go but at the same time, we’re leaving our families behind,” Col. Farrell Sullivan, commanding officer, said. “Naturally we’re sad about that or anxious, probably a little bit of anxiety across the force, but I think once we get on the buses here and head toward the ships we’ll get refocused on what the mission is.”
The schedule six-month deployment comes after months of pre-deployment training.
The 26th MEU, structured as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, is comprised of a Command Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced), Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and Combat Logistics Battalion 26. MAGTFs are flexible, task-organized forces that are capable of responding rapidly to a broad range of combat, crisis, and conflict situations.