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First Unit to Deploy for Afghan Surge Will Leave Before Christmas

10:07 AM, Dec 4, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Marine Corps Times reports:

A North Carolina-based infantry battalion will be the first U.S. unit to deploy to Afghanistan as part of an additional 30,000 troops who will be sent into combat during the next six months, said a Marine official overseeing the unit.

Camp Lejeune's 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, "will deploy in the near future," said Col. David Fuquea, chief of staff for Lejeune's 2nd Marine Division. He declined to say when the unit will arrive in theater, but Marine officials at the Pentagon said the first unit will deploy before Dec. 25.

The battalion was the first Marine unit to fight in Afghanistan in years when it deployed as part of Lejeune's 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2008, but it has had nearly 15 months to rest and train for its next mission, said Fuquea, speaking at a Thursday night dinner sponsored by the Marine Corps Association, a professional organization composed of current and former Marines and their family members.

In all, about 9,000 Marines will be sent to Afghanistan by late-spring, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, deputy commandant of plans, policies and operations, told guests at the dinner.

"That will bring our total in Afghanistan to just under 20,000," he said. "We are in this for the long haul."