• A row of Tongan Marines stand at parade rest during an awards ceremony held in their honor Feb. 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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    A row of Tongan Marines stand at parade rest during an awards ceremony held in their honor Feb. 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

  • The 55-man contingent of Tongan Marines stand at parade rest during an awards ceremony in their honor Feb. 5, 2007 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq.  The Tongans were awarded for their service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2007 to February 2008.

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    The 55-man contingent of Tongan Marines stand at parade rest during an awards ceremony in their honor Feb. 5, 2007 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans were awarded for their service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from...

  • A row of U.S. Army Achievement Medals adorn the pockets of the Tongan Marines during an awards ceremony Feb. 5, 2008 held at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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    A row of U.S. Army Achievement Medals adorn the pockets of the Tongan Marines during an awards ceremony Feb. 5, 2008 held at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

  • A U.S. Army Achievement Medal adorns the pocket of a Tongan Marine; one of 53 given to Tongan Marines during an awards ceremony Feb. 5, 2008 held at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq.  The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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    A U.S. Army Achievement Medal adorns the pocket of a Tongan Marine; one of 53 given to Tongan Marines during an awards ceremony Feb. 5, 2008 held at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The Tongans are a 55-man contingent deployed in support of...

  • Brig. Gen Joseph Anderson, chief of staff, Multi-National Corps - Iraq, (left), congratulates Capt. Tau Ahoelei, company commander, Royal Tongan Marine contingent to Iraq, on his awarding of the U.S. Army Commendation Medal during an awards ceremony held Feb. 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. Ahoelei and his 54 fellow Marines were honored during the ceremony and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2007 to provide 24-hour internal and external security of the 48,000 square-foot Al-Faw palace.

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    Brig. Gen Joseph Anderson, chief of staff, Multi-National Corps - Iraq, (left), congratulates Capt. Tau Ahoelei, company commander, Royal Tongan Marine contingent to Iraq, on his awarding of the U.S. Army Commendation Medal during an awards ceremony...

  • Cpl. Amanaki Lelei Langi with the Royal Tongan Marines stands at the position of attention during an awards ceremony held Feb 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq.  Langi and 54 of his fellow Tongan contingent were awarded U.S. Army Commendation and Achievement Medals for their service to the Multi-National Corps -- Iraq from Sept. 2007 to Feb. 2008.

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    Cpl. Amanaki Lelei Langi with the Royal Tongan Marines stands at the position of attention during an awards ceremony held Feb 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. Langi and 54 of his fellow Tongan contingent were awarded U.S. Army...

  • A Royal Tongan Marine stands at the position of attention during an awards ceremony held Feb 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq.  The 55-man Tongan contingent deployed to Iraq in September 2007 - their Marine forces second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom -

and each member was individually awarded either U.S. Army Commendation Medals or U.S. Army Achievement Medals during the ceremony held in their honor.

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    A Royal Tongan Marine stands at the position of attention during an awards ceremony held Feb 5, 2008 at the Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq. The 55-man Tongan contingent deployed to Iraq in September 2007 - their Marine forces second deployment in...

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - A contingent of Royal Tongan Marines made a mark upon Camp Victory during a six-month deployment here, and they were honored for their service during that time at an awards presentation at the Al-Faw Palace Feb. 5.

Fifty-five Marines from the South Pacific island of Tonga were honored with three U.S. Army Commendation Medals and 53 U.S. Army Achievement medals for their service in support of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq mission.

The Tongans were tasked with providing 24-hour internal and external security for the 48,000 square-foot Al-Faw Palace - a job they've done "extremely well," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for MNC-I.

"You've been recognized by all for the expert manner in which you have carried out your day-to-day duties," Joseph said as he addressed the Tongans during the ceremony. "You do [your jobs] every day with a positive attitude. You are energetic, very enthusiastic, and by in large, very professional. We very much appreciate that."

Before the Marines were to be awarded their medals, however, a Camp Victory tradition had to be upheld. The unit was called to attention by their chief of naval defense, in which he simply proclaimed, "a song."

Booming voices from the larger-than-life Tongans had servicemembers from all three floors of the palace coming out of offices and cubicles, clambering to take a look. The Tongans set a precedent since starting their deployment in September of 2007 by singing at numerous MNC-I ceremonies, the likes such as this one coming to cheers, rounds of applause and words of gratitude.

"You are dedicated to executing your duties, but as you've just demonstrated today, you're also an awesome chorus," Joseph said. "We thank you for making many of our ceremonies and services all that much more special."

The Tongan's company commander, Capt. Tau Ahoelei, explained that the honor in which the unit was bestowed comes from the ability to take any mission given, "and give it our best shot," he said.

"Whatever mission it is, we work hard at it, we enjoy it and we are happy to do it," said Ahoelei, who hails from Nuku'alofa, Kolomotu'a. "We've made a lot of friends, learned about the culture here, and we've even learned American footie (football)."

The ceremony closed out with the Tongans receiving a multitude of congratulatory hand shakes from their coalition partners.

This is the second contingent of Tongan Marines to be sent to support OIF. The first deployed in June of 2004 to support operations in Iraq's Al-Anbar Province. The unit makes up approximately 10 percent of the total Tongan Defense Forces.

The Tongans will leave later this month to be replaced by 55 more of their fellow countrymen.

Page last updated Wed February 6th, 2008 at 02:23