CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A brigade of U.S. Marines that evicted Taliban insurgents from a broad swath of southern Afghanistan received the nation’s highest collective military honor at a ceremony here Friday.
Troops of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, who engaged in pitched fighting along the Helmand River Valley, are the first conventional forces in the nearly 11-year-long Afghan war to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
The brigade “brought the fight to the heart of the insurgency,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in announcing the award. “You made 58,000 square miles of battle space — that’s 10,000 square miles larger than North Carolina — a more stable and secure place in the world. That’s remarkable. That’s incredible.”
The Presidential Unit Citation recognizes group valor equivalent to individual action that would merit the Navy Cross or the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross.
Under the command of then-Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the brigade conducted the largest
helicopter-borne assault since the Vietnam War in the summer of 2009. The following February, the brigade assaulted the Taliban stronghold of Marja, which led to months of arduous combat. The brigade, which comprised almost 11,000 Marines and sailors, suffered 90 fatalities and hundreds of severe injuries during its year-long deployment.