CAMP LEJEUNE — Defense Secretary Robert Gates watched Marines simulate an attack Thursday at Camp Lejeune in preparation for their deployment as part of the president's troop buildup in Afghanistan.
Gates watched from a tower as about 30 camouflage-clad Marines simulated the assault on a house in a training complex, a mock-up of a Middle East village. About a dozen more Marines played the part of insurgents and defended the house, opening fire on two armored vehicles.
After the exercise, Gates spoke with the Marines from Delta Company, 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion, thanking them for their service. He wished them good luck on their deployment to Afghanistan.
"What you are doing is important. We need you over there," Gates said. "You know the mission. You know the challenge."
About 4,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune and the nearby Marine Corps air stations at Cherry Point and New River are expected to deploy this spring. The troops will bolster the 38,000 American troops already fighting a resurgence of Taliban forces in Afghanistan.