CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF OPERATIONS -- Less than a week after being told to stand by for a potential 30-day extension in the Central Command theater to conduct further operations in support of the war against terrorism, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) is headed home.
Embarked aboard the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT, the 22nd MEU (SOC) has been deployed since mid-February for what was scheduled to be a six-month deployment.
In mid-June, while in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker, the MEU received a 30-day extension to continue prosecuting its highly-effective offensive against Taliban and anti-coalition factions in south-central Afghanistan, and word of this second possible extension came shortly after the unit returned to its ships.
"I was a little disappointed to be away from my family longer than I expected," said Lance Cpl. Jason Farley, of Bakersfield, Calif., an administrative clerk with the MEU Personnel Administrative Center, commenting on the prospect of being deployed longer than expected.
Like most of his fellow Marines and Sailors in the MEU, Farley accepted the possibility of being extended as a consequence of being deployed during time of war, but the news that this second extension wasn't happening was a tremendous sense of relief.
"It was awesome," Farley continued, "it's that much sooner I can get home to my wife."
The MEU, which consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22, is now scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune, N.C. in mid-September. Although the units' Marines and Sailors are looking forward to reunions with their families and friends, they all realize the possibility exists for a crisis to flare and pull the MEU once again into the fight.
In the upcoming weeks, barring any unforeseen operational contingencies, the 22nd MEU (SOC) will steam through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean Sea, and into Rota, Spain for its final wash down and agricultural inspection before crossing the Atlantic to the shores of North Carolina.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC) and its status, visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.