Long journey into Afghanistan

14 Apr 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

A dry, cool wind greeted Cpl. Robert A. Sturkie as he stepped off the Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and onto Afghan soil.

As one of the first of approximately 2,200 members of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to arrive in Afghanistan, Sturkie has spent the several weeks since his arrival in-country watching the unit's Marines and Sailors trickle in.

Sturkie and his fellow Marines and Sailors' journey to Afghanistan began hundreds of miles away at a country in the Arabian Gulf where the amphibious assault ships of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 dropped off the majority of the unit's personnel, vehicles, and equipment.

Once ashore, Air Force strategic lift assets, primarily the cavernous Globemasters, flew the bulk of the MEU's Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22 into Afghanistan.  Also aboard the aircraft were support personnel from the MEU's aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced).

For Sturkie, a 21-year-old native of Saluda, S.C., his journey to the war-ravaged south Asian nation began more than two years ago during his first deployment with the 22d MEU (SOC).  During that float, he watched in frustration as the MEU flirted with large-scale missions in Afghanistan, but sent only small detachments ashore.

"It's good to finally be here and have the chance to do something to stop another 9-11," said Sturkie, a combat photographer assigned to the MEU Command Element.  Sturkie's exact role will be to document the MEU's combat and civil military operations.

The final element of the MEU to arrive in Afghanistan were the helicopters of HMM-266 (Rein), who self-deployed from ESG shipping in Arabian Sea over a span of three days.

The MEU's specific missions in Afghanistan will include facilitating election efforts and seeking out and destroying Al Qaeda, Taliban, and anti-coalition militia operating in the unit's area of operations.  The unit will be in Afghanistan for an undetermined length of time operating under the operational control of Combined Joint Task Force 180.

For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit