MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
During a small, brief ceremony in the II Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters building aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., officials formally closed an illustrious chapter in Marine Corps history as Brig. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson relinquished command of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
Nicholson, a career infantry officer with deployments to the Middle East, the Balkans and multiple tours in Iraq under his belt, assumed command of 2nd MEB on March 9, 2009, and led the unit on its ground-breaking deployment to Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general of II MEF, presided over the ceremony as Nicholson surrendered the MEB’s colors to the deputy II MEF commanding general, Maj. Gen. John E. Wissler.
“As we return our colors to the MEF and General Wissler, we are thankful for the support we received,” said Nicholson, addressing Hejlik and an auditorium full of Marines and sailors he deployed with to Afghanistan. ”Thank you for the trust and confidence in giving me this opportunity [to lead the MEB].”
Nicholson and his staff built the MEB from scratch and by May 29, 2009, had boots on the ground, 10,000 service members under their charge, and responsibility for combat and security operations in Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province. Over the next ten months, 2nd MEB (also known as MEB-Afghanistan) prosecuted a highly successful campaign against Taliban diehards and other anti-government forces.
The unit built Camp Leatherneck, 2nd MEB’s base of operations in Afghanistan, from the ground up and deployed forces into regions of Afghanistan that had seen little Coalition or governmental presence and had become Taliban sanctuaries. Notable campaigns included pushes into the Helmand River Valley, Dehanna, Now Zad and Marjah where the Marines and their Afghan allies were able to wrest control away from anti-government and criminal elements.
Speaking during the April 12, 2010, transfer of authority ceremony where 2nd MEB transferred its security responsibilities in southern Afghanistan to the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I MEF (Forward), the governor of Helmand province had high praise for 2nd MEB.
“People have new hope for a bright future,” said Governor Gulab Mangal. “To bring security, peace in Helmand, Marines tried the best to get the trust and confidence of Afghan people. MEB-Afghanistan will be remembered in the history of Helmand and Afghanistan.”
At its peak, 2nd MEB consisted of more than 18,000 American service members and worked closely with Afghan forces as well as Coalition partners operating under the auspices of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The deployment of 2nd MEB to Afghanistan is the latest in a string of combat deployments for the unit which included service in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91, and in the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
“No other MEB has the combat record of 2nd MEB,” said Hejlik, “and they formed a new chapter in Marine Corps history. You [the men and women of 2nd MEB] need to pat yourselves on the back … be proud of yourselves.”
“We left Afghanistan better than we found it,” Nicholson added, commenting on the security situation in Helmand province. “As I look around at the faces in this room I know we will be connected by this deployment for the rest of our lives.”