‘Ties that bind’: Belleau Wood regiments continue long history together

24 Jan 2007 | Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

The French Fourragere is one of the most distinctive and unique accessories for the Marine Corps uniform. It is a braided rope of intertwined green and red cords worn around the left shoulder, used to identify a unit which has twice earned the French War Cross with Palm Leaf. Only two Marine units have ever been so awarded: the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, for their valor, courage and stoicism in the face of overwhelming odds at the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I.

Like the Fourragere, the histories of the two storied regiments have been intertwined since that battle, looping and weaving through Guadalcanal, the Vietnam era and Desert Storm. On Jan. 24, another chapter closed in battle history of the regiments who earned the nickname “Teufelhunden” from the German army 90 years ago. Redesignated temporarily as Regimental Combat Teams 5 and 6, respectively, 5th Marines transferred authority over their area of operations to 6th Marines.

“These two regiments were born during a time of national crisis and have served our nation in every clime and place since,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer, RCT-5. “It’s fitting that during this time when our nation needs us the most, Marines from 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are answering that call.”

RCT-6, commanded by Col. Richard L. Simcock, was handed a region in transition. Great strides in Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police readiness and cooperativeness with Coalition Forces were made during RCT-5’s tenure in Al Anbar. Simcock said his 6th Marine Regiment is intensely focused on perpetuating the standard set by its predecessor.

“We look forward to continuing with the successes that our predecessors have achieved,” he said. “Regimental Combat Team 5 has done a phenomenal job in the area of operations. The Marines and Sailors of the 5th Marine Regiment deserve a great deal of credit in being the supporting element for the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police.”

Training and preparing Iraqi Security Forces for an ever-increasing role in their country’s transition is the regiment’s main focus of efforts. Gunnery Sgt. Darryl J. Smithson, Iraqi Security Forces liaison for RCT-6, is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the numerous Police Transition Teams in the area of operations responsible for training Iraqi Police.

“RCT-6 is picking up the critical mission of supporting military and police transition teams in efforts to equip, train and mentor the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Smithson, a native of Warrensburg, Mo.

With the handover complete, RCT-6 takes control of numerous subordinate units, each of which will rotate separately into and out of the area of operations. These subordinate units include infantry battalions from both East and West Coast commands, as well as support units such as artillery, engineers and tanks.

The command and control provided by RCT-6 and the tactical abilities of each of the subordinate units combine to make a formidable coordinated effort in transitioning the security responsibilities to Iraqi Security Forces.

The sacrifices of time and flesh given by Marines throughout history in the name of national defense will not be soon forgotten by a grateful America. From Belleau Wood to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Marines from the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments have distinguished themselves time and time again as being eminently capable of handling whatever the mission may throw at them.