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4,500 Marines, sailors return from deployment in time for Thanksgiving

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), walk toward their awaiting loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

Thousands of Marines and sailors who deployed to the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific seven months ago, returned to three West Coast Marine Corps bases just in time for Thanksgiving.

Service members arrived by amphibious crafts at Camp Pendleton on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Another group of Marines and sailors also returned Tuesday, by aircraft, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.

Family and friends greeted the returning service members at each location.

The 4,500 service members were all part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

“I am very proud of the 11th MEU, and the entire 1st Marine Expeditionary Force family is happy to welcome them home,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. “The 11th MEU and the Boxer ARG embodied naval integration daily throughout their deployment around the globe and truly demonstrated the capability of our Navy-Marine Corps team to operate in today’s complex maritime environment.”

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The three-ship amphibious force — made up of the dock landing ship USS Harper’s Ferry, amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha and amphibious assault ship USS Boxer — departed San Diego on May 1.

Their mission was to conduct maritime security operations and crisis response operations in the Middle East and Indo-Pacific regions.

The 11th MEU, commanded by Col. Fridrik Fridriksson and based at Camp Pendleton, is made up of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163; and Combat Logistics Battalion 11. The Boxer ARG includes the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21; Assault Craft Unit 5; Naval Beach Group 1; Beachmaster Unit 1; Fleet Surgical Team 5; and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.

They spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operation during their deployment, training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia.

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge,” said Fridriksson. “They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary.”

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© 2019 The Orange County Register