Located under the authority of the Department of the Navy, the US Marine Corps (USMC) serves as a land and air “force in readiness.” Since the late 19th Century, Marines have been used by the US government to execute foreign policy objectives and protect American interests overseas. USMC forces have been at the center of major wars and key military operations, garnering them a reputation as an elite fighting force.
In 2003 the US invasion of Iraq involved the largest deployment of Marine forces since the Persian Gulf War. Approximately 76,000 Marines deployed to the Central Command area for combat operations against Iraq. The I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), including Task Force Tarawa and the United Kingdom’s 1st Armored Division, were the first conventional ground units to enter Iraq. Fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft from the 3d Marine Air Wing provided continuous close air support to Marine and other American and British units as they drove deeper into Iraq. On the ground, Marines from I MEF moved nearly 400 miles from the Kuwait border to Baghdad and Tikrit and eliminated the last organized resistance by Iraqi military forces. In early 2005, the II Marine Expeditionary Force replaced I MEF in Iraq as American forces concentrated on battling insurgents and other guerrilla fighters opposed to the United States’ military presence in Iraq.
(by Andrew Tilghman, Marine Corps Times)