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Commandant to Marines: 'We cannot fail'

By 1st Lt. Christopher Harrison, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

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June 23, 2016 — SOUTHWEST ASIA (June 19, 2016) — Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, visited U.S. Marines and Sailors with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command Sunday, to discuss the importance of the Marine Corps mission and presence in U.S. Central Command during a town hall forum.

The task force, in its fourth iteration, is deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with a crisis response mission spanning 20 nations.

“This [deployment] is hard because you’re constantly training, preparing and rehearsing for missions; …it’s only going to get hotter and nothing may happen,” said Neller. “But you have to be ready.”

Marines and Sailors with SPMAGTF-CR-CC rigorously train for a variety of contingencies in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, dispersed through several host nations with the ability to provide combat power and crisis response capabilities at a moments’ notice. One such contingency is the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, a key component to the task force’s mission of providing personnel recovery. The combination of aircraft, pilots, and TRAP force personnel provide aircrews supporting OIR with an exceptional personnel recovery capability.

“My request, Marines, is that we remain focused and disciplined. Do your job,” said Neller. “We cannot fail.”

Marines have been operating as part of SPMAGTF-CR-CC in support of Operation Inherent Resolve since the task force’s inception in October 2014. Beyond the TRAP mission the task force maintains, its other mission sets reflect the larger effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, characterizing the flexible nature of the MAGTF: conducting kinetic air strike missions, participating in security cooperation and strengthening partner capacity within the region. These missions are conducted by different units across the CENTCOM AOR with the task force command element planning and coordinating all efforts, led by Col. Kenneth R. Kassner, commanding officer of SPMAGTF-CR-CC.

Neller, having previously served in Iraq as the deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006-2007, was optimistic about the contributions SPMAGTF-CR-CC has been making to support the greater OIR effort.

“The U.S. and coalition strike program wouldn’t exist without what you’re doing here,” said Neller.

As Iraqi Security Forces continue to gain ground and momentum against ISIL, the efforts of dozens of regional and international nations are all critical components in the campaign against ISIL as OIR evolves. To that end, Neller was confident in the ISF’s ability to liberate Iraq.

“The land Da’esh took in Iraq…is continuing to be diminished as the Iraqis take back control,” said Neller. “We have skin in this game. We want the Iraqis to be successful.”

After the commandant’s remarks, Green addressed the crowd of Marines and Sailors, encouraging them to take care of one another. He ended by echoing Neller’s caution to the task force: to stay vigilant in a deployed environment, and to always be ready for anything at any time.

“The enemy always gets a vote,” said Green.