The II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) has a long and distinguished record of fighting for the United States and its allies in the Middle East and South Asia since the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
But long beforehand, it was already active. II MEF received its present name in 1988, but it carried out operations under another name in the 1960s and 1970s.
The MEF, based in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, includes the 2nd Marine Division, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), 24th MEU and 26th MEU, all of which earned distinction in the Middle East or South Asia.
Battlegrounds for II MEF after 9/11 ranged from Helmand province, Afghanistan, to Anbar province, Iraq, as well as other locations.
It served as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) in those countries.
A MAGTF includes a ground combat element, an aviation combat element and a logistics combat element under a common command element.
The size of each MAGTF depends on its mission, but its structure never varies. Each one can operate either alone or as part of a coalition.
A MEF is the largest type of MAGTF and is the main warfighting organisation during larger crises or contingencies.
Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq
In Afghanistan and Iraq, II MEF worked with all US service branches as well as several allies' forces.
In one example, in 2017, about 300 II MEF Marines headed to Helmand province to train the Afghan National Army and National Police.
II MEF worked closely with the US Army in Iraq.
The fight against insurgents in Anbar province, Iraq, became an honored page in II MEF's history.
The 2nd Marine Division, part of II MEF, served in Anbar repeatedly, in 2005, 2007 and 2008. It deployed each time to Camp Fallujah in the province.
II MEF's component units have won numerous awards for fighting America's foes in more than 40 years of service.
For example, the MEF's 22nd MEU fought in 2004 in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, and in 2005–2006 in Anbar province, Iraq.
The 22nd MEU's lengthy list of awards since its activation in 1982 includes "two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, four Navy Unit Commendations, five Meritorious Unit Commendations", and other honors, II MEF said on its website.
Another II MEF unit with multiple honors is the 24th MEU, which fought in Babil and Baghdad provinces, Iraq, and in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, Afghanistan.
The unit's honors include a Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award with one oak leaf, and many others.
Finally, the 26th MEU has its own notable history. It deployed to Mosul, Ninawa province, Iraq, in 2003.
In later years, it deployed numerous times to Iraq and helped the Iraqi government's forces combat the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS). It fought in Kandahar province and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Its many honors include a Navy Unit Commendation with three Bronze Stars for service in Afghanistan and an Iraq Campaign Medal Streamer.
These units stand ready to go into the breach again when the need arises.