MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Leaders of 2nd Marine Division gathered for an award ceremony here today.
Colonel Charles M. Gurganus, the division operations officer and a native of Wilmington, N.C., received the Legion of Merit medal for his service as commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team-8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force in the Al Anbar province of Iraq from March to August 2005.
The Legion of Merit medal, instituted in 1942, is earned for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States.
Gurganus successfully accomplished the difficult mission of improving the stability and security across RCT-8’s area of operation by employing combat resources and directing comprehensively planned counter-insurgency and shaping operations, according to his award citation.
He was in command and control of four U.S. Marine battalions, U.S. Army units, Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Interior Forces.
He explained what it was like to lead RCT-8 in Iraq.
“It was the greatest honor and privilege of my career,” Gurganus said.
He also played a pivotal role in the Division Sunni Engagement Plan, where he shaped and influenced the development of a Fallujah City Council into a functioning governing body and pushed the coalition forces and Iraqi Security Forces presence into the cities of Saqlawiyah, Karmah and Al Amiriyah.
Brigadier Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin, the assistant division commander, awarded Gurganus with the medal and talked about his successes.
“Colonel Gurganus did a fine job especially with the coordination of the Iraqi Security Forces and local government. His process went a long way to secure the success of the elections and to assist the victims of the city,” McMenamin said.
According to his citation, as he lead his combat forces from the front, he continually traversed his battle space where his vehicle was attacked twice by improvised explosive devices.
After receiving the award, Gurganus explained how he felt and credited the success of the RCT to its members.
“I felt extremely proud to receive this award, because it’s a constant reminder of the people who gave so much to make RCT-8 successful out there. They earned this,” Gurganus explained.
Gurganus plans on staying with 2nd Marine Division until he retires next year.