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Al Anbar governor pins new Marine colonel

1 Nov 2005 | Maj. Juliet R. Chelkowski

In a never been done before ceremony here Nov. 1, the governor of the largest province in Iraq joined together with Marines to help promote one of their own – another “first” for both Iraqis and Marines.

Lieutenant Col. Anthony Graves-Buckingham capitalized on a once-in-a-lifetime experience when he asked the governor to participate in his promotion ceremony. 

“This was a rare opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Graves-Buckingham said.  “We’ve been working closely with the governor and have developed a great working relationship.  By him being involved in this tradition shows how far we’ve all come. “Besides, how many people can say they’ve had an Iraqi governor pin on their new rank?” 

Pinning rank insignia onto a Marine’s collar was a first for the governor as well, and he was flattered by the invitation.“It’s an honor to be here with you all today and Major GB,” Governor Ma’moun Sami Rasheed Latif said through a translator to the group of Marines he has come to know over the past two months.  “I want you to know that this is a gift from me to you.”

Colonel Miles Burdine, the commander of the 6th Civil Affairs Group’s Government Support Team, which supports the 2nd Marine Division, said that in his 26 years in the Marine Corps he has never experienced anything like this. “It was the most unique promotion ceremony I have ever participated in,” said Burdine.  “This promotion demonstrated the relationship that has developed between the Provincial Government and the United States Marine Corps.”

The Government Support Team established a Provincial Civil-Military Operations Center here last July to support the governor and the provincial council as they move through the critical months of elections and reconstruction. The PCMOC that was originally established by 5th CAG now houses the Marines from 6th CAG, but the mission remains the same: Provide the assistance needed to achieve Iraqi self-governance. 

Coincidentally, the same threats of violence from criminals that attempt to prevent progress toward Iraqi self-governance also impacted the promotion ceremony. “I was going to get you a gift for this day,” Ma’moun said with a smile.  “But I couldn’t get to the markets because of the dangers.  I’ll try to get you something later.”