The month of July allowed our Marines and Sailors the opportunity to expand on their current skill sets and hone in on what makes us Marines. This unit has never let an opportunity to train slip by and even with concurrent combat operations, the SPMAGTF-CR-CC continues to prepare and be ready when called on.
At Al Taqaddum, the SPMAGTF continues to support the establishment, build up and securityof the newest Advise and Assist site in Iraq. We now have over 400 U.S. service members there working alongside their Iraqi counterparts with many of those being our Marines and Sailors. Along with our other Advise and Assist site at Al Asad, these teams are working tirelessly to ensure continued support to the mission in the strategic Ramadi-Fallujah Corridor.
The 'Red Devils' of VMFA-232 are a big part of the current fight to retake Ramadi. Their F-18's continue to fly overhead of the city, engaging Da'esh when they present a threat and giving the Iraqi soldier on the ground the freedom of movement and ability to operate that will ultimately lead to success.
Outside of our recurring OIR support and operations, SPMAGTF components have retooled and sharpened their skills with across a wide range of capabilities. Our Crisis Response Company has been training at ranges that feature some of the most austere conditions in the Middle East, practicing everything from marksmanship to basic explosives usage and urban platoon attacks.
We've worked diligently to improve our interoperability. Our Command Element Marines created and established a Forward Command Element from which all of our current operations can be controlled. Having the capability for distributed command and control is just one more way the SPMAGTF is the most ready force to respond to unforeseen crises here in U.S. Central Command.
On July 17th, the White Knights of VMM-165 celebrated their 50th anniversary while deployed with the SPMAGTF. This squadron has taken part in some of the most iconic moments in recent military history, extracting Ambassador Graham Martin from the Embassy in the final days of Vietnam and acting as air mission commander for the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch during Operation Iraqi Freedom, just to name a few. Our very own Lady Ace took the days leading up to the 17th in stride, celebrating with some MV-22 Tail Gunnery.
No matter how busy we are, I am continually impressed by the 2,300 Marines and Sailors of this unit. Our focus and operations may change at any given moment, but I have no doubt that these men and women are ready, and will be ready in the future, to be the CENTCOM Commander's Crisis Response Force.
Col Jay Bargeron