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Camp Pendleton Marines, Sailors Head To Afghanistan For War’s Final Chapter

Hundreds of Marines from Camp Pendleton are deploying to Afghanistan to close out the final chapter of America’s longest war.

Hundreds of Camp Pendleton-based Marines are deploying to Afghanistan to close out the final chapter of America’s longest war.

On Monday, 140 troops with the I Marine Expeditionary Force's forward command are saying goodbye to friends and family. Upon their arrival in Afghanistan, they will relieve Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune, N.C. in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

Photo by Sgt. Jessica L. Ostroska

Photo credit: I Marine Expeditionary Force

A Marine with I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) hugs his family as he waits to depart Camp Pendleton, Calif., to deploy to Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2014.

Photo by Sgt. Frances Johnson

Photo credit: U.S. Marines

Jonathon Taylor, counter improvised explosive device instructor, shows Marines and sailors a type of IED and its different components during the counter IED class given as part of the Predeployment Training Program at Camp Pendleton.

In all, more than 4,000 Marines and sailors from 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Logistics Group and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing will be heading to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The youngest of the deploying troops were merely in grade school at the start of the war in 2001.

“And then we’ll have Marines who have already deployed five or six times," said Lt. Col. Chris Perrine, director of public affairs for the I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward.

Perrine said the Afghans have already taken the lead for security throughout the region, but danger remains.

"We'll still be very heavily involved, primarily with what we call security force assistance," Perrine said. "So we’ll continue to assist training the Afghan military and police, all their security forces."

"We’ll also continue to work with their government in a civil capacity, and then we will continue to work with them to conduct a full transfer of responsibility throughout and regional southwest," Perrine added.

The toll of war has hit hard in San Diego, with 20 percent of U.S. service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To combat the problem, Perrine said they've increased PTSD education and training, and conducted thorough pre-deployment mental health assessments.

“We monitor them closely throughout a deployment, and then afterward we’ll do a post-deployment health assessment and we have that baseline that we can compare to," Perrine said. "So if a Marine is exposed any kind of a head trauma we can look at that baseline and see what kind of an impact may have occurred."

Meanwhile in San Diego, the war on PTSD will continue. Homeless Advocate and Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy said he's seeing more young homeless veterans suffering from brain trauma after fighting in Afghanistan. He’s working to help a half-dozen who are living along the San Diego riverbanks.

“They’ve seen stuff we can’t even imagine," McElroy said. "We’ve made a concerted effort to go out and talk to these youngsters. I’m trying to get them together to form their own pier group."

The Camp Pendleton Marines deploying this month are expected to return by the end of the year.

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