MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
During a recent ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) was activated to spearhead Marine Corps efforts in Afghanistan early next year.
This activation marks the fourth time since the Global War on Terror began in March 2003 that II MEF (Fwd) will take the lead for counter-insurgency and security and stability operations in the Middle East, but this will be the unit’s first time to do so in Afghanistan.
During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of II MEF (Fwd), uncased the colors, symbolizing the unit’s activation.
“[The Marines’ area of operations in Afghanistan] is the economic center for the Taliban, fed through the growth of poppies…it is a very kinetic place,” said Toolan, a Fordham University graduate and career infantry officer.
The unit will deploy as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), a Marine-unique warfighting organization that places ground combat, aviation combat, and combat logistical support forces under the operational control of a single commander and his staff. Toolan was selected to lead this MAGTF with Marines drawn from Camp Lejeune, as well as Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point and New River.
While deployed, II MEF (Fwd) will support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to provide an environment for the Afghans to foster a stable nation.
“We’re not going to build a nation,” said Toolan. “We’re going to build security.”
In addressing the senior officer and enlisted leadership of II MEF (Fwd), Toolan emphasized that keeping the Helmand province stable and incorporating Afghan forces into operations will be a complex and challenging endeavor.
“We need Marines who will put their teeth into the bad guys and not let go. No problem; our Marines will do that. But we also have to work with people.” Toolan explained. “We’re going there to secure and serve the population; the people of Afghanistan are the center of gravity.”