Marine Corps Sgt. Jared K. Will, a 2002 graduate of Petersburg High School, along with more than 2,200 Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., returned from a seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleets' area of operations in support of Maritime Security Operations and the Global War on Terror aboard ships of the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), Norfolk, Va.
While deployed, the MEU supported regional security and stability operations in Iraq and the Horn of Africa as well as conducted theater security cooperation exercises with regional allies and impromptu counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
The MEUs CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters were detached for six months to support Marine Aircraft Group 16, Al Asad, Iraq.
The Marines also conducted bilateral training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as noncombatant evacuation operations.
The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, the Spanish Minister of Defense, former Marine and actor R. Lee Ermey as well as officers from countries throughout the 5th and 6th Fleet visited the Iwo Jima and the MEU to foster moral and continued international cooperation.
During the past seven months, MEU Marines traveled through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf and visited the countries of France, Italy, Spain as well as many nations surrounding the Arabian Peninsula.
Marines participated in community relations projects including improvement of the grounds of the Cassa Della Beneficenza Orphanage in Floridia, Sicily, and in Rota, Spain, the Marines improved landscaping at La Cartuja Monastery. They also delivered sports equipment and school supplies to the Hogar Nuestra Sra Del Rosario Orphanage.
The Iwo Jima ARG consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima
(LHD 7); the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported at Norfolk; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.
Will joined the Marine Corps in January 2004.