The death of a U.S. Marine in northern Iraq on Saturday has drawn attention to the deployment of Marines and sailors from Navy ships in the Middle East in the military campaign against the Islamic State militant group.
Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 27, died about 2:04 a.m. after he and several other members of his unit were hit with enemy rocket fire at a base in Makhmour, a town southeast of the city of Mosul that is near the front line. He was assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and its ground unit, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. Pentagon officials said Sunday while announcing his identity. It is the second combat death in Iraq in the campaign.
A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said a company of Marines from the expeditionary unit arrived in Iraq about a week ago. Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the outgoing chief of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement released Sunday night that they were providing force protection for coalition military advisers in the region, where Iraqi security forces are preparing for an operation in coming months to wrest Mosul from Islamic State militants.
“Staff Sergeant Cardin’s service and his many important contributions will long be remembered by his fellow Marines, his teammates at United States Central Command, and a grateful nation,” Austin said. “Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man’s family and friends.”
The defense official did not offer specifics on the size of the unit deployed, but a company typically numbers a couple of hundred troops. The expeditionary unit itself includes about 2,200 troops, and it is integrated to operate on its own with ground troops, aviation units and logistics support.
The official said Marines from the unit have moved on and off the ships into Iraq for months. They are traveling with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, a three-ship Navy unit that includes the USS Kearsarge, the USS Arlington and the USS Oak Hill. It arrived in the Middle East in October. The U.S. troop presence in Iraq is capped at 3,780.
Marine officials said Sunday in a news release that Cardin joined the service in 2006 as a field artilleryman and was assigned to Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, before his deployment. He deployed to Afghanistan three times and enlisted out of Temecula, Calif.