Marine Security Guard (Baghdad) Detachment Challenge Coin Circa 2008

The US Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, or Marine Security Group (MSG), is a battalion-sized element whose 150 detachments fall into nine regional commands. Founded in 1948 as part of the 1946 Foreign Service Act, the MSG mission is, “…to provide internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States”. [1] As such the MSG builds upon the longstanding history of the US Marine Corps as couriers, guards, and special mission security forces.

MSG_Shield_(1)
MSG Shield

Members of the MSG receive initial training at the Foreign Service Institute, where upon successful completion they are then assigned to the MSG in Quantico, VA and its various posts throughout the world. The mission of the MSG also includes working under the joint direction and guidance of the Regional Security Officer (RSO). [2] Both the MSG and RSO assist with the security of visiting foreign dignitaries and other formal diplomatic functions. However, unlike the RSO, the MSG is restricted to embassy grounds and is seldom permitted to extend their security beyond the enclosing campus. [3]

The Baghdad Embassy

Between 2005 and 2009 the MSG in Baghdad had a doubly difficult mission; securing the current US Embassy (formerly a Saddam-era Republican Guard palace), while extending their efforts some distance away to the site of the future US Embassy. This effort required careful planning between the MSG and RSO so that neither location was at risk thus allowing the Department of State employees to continue conducting their diplomatic mission. The new US embassy, located on a 104-acre plot along the banks of the Tigris River, grew to include modern office spaces, housing and support buildings, and naturally the MSG garrison itself. The new embassy was said to rival the size of the Vatican and by the end of construction in 2009 over 1,200-government employees and service members called it home. [4]

scr_090105-A-6776M-001
MSG Raise US Flag in 2009

In a flag-raising ceremony on January 6th, 2009 US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and over 1,000 guests including Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, watched as the MSG officially raised America’s flag marking the opening of the new US Embassy. [5] During the same ceremony, the former palace was then transferred back to the Iraqi government to be used as the offices for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials. This important transition highlighted the continued transference of authority back to the Iraqi people and a long lasting partnership between both governments. While the number of present staff and diplomats has changed at the US Embassy in Baghdad between 2009 and today, following the September 11th, 2012 attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi the US Senate passed an authorization to temporarily increase the number of Marines assigned to the MSG further highlighting their importance to securing American diplomatic interests abroad. [6]

Obverse

Obverse
Obverse

The 2” Marine Security Guard (Baghdad) Detachment challenge coin is brass with a number of features on the Obverse representative of the MSG, its mission, and heritage. In the direct center is the USMC crest, often referred to as the “Globe and Anchor”. Behind the USMC crest are three palm trees in a negative space, representing the palms inside the Baghdad Embassy and commonly found in other USMC garrisons throughout the world. Arcing above these symbols is the famous Crossed Swords monument at the “Victory over Iran” Parade Grounds in downtown Baghdad. Meant to commemorate Iraq’s self-proclaimed victory in the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, the monument features two hands (reportedly to be Saddam Hussein’s) holding two swords aloft and crossed at the tip. Behind these symbols are the red, white, and blue vertical bands symbolizing the Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon, an award received by a member of the MGS upon the successful completion of a 24-month rotation abroad. Raised lettering across the top of the Obverse’s edge reads “Marine Security Guard Detachment” while the bottom notes the ever-popular MSG motto of “Living the Dream”.

Reverse

Reverse
Reverse

Likewise, the Reverse of the Marine Security Guard (Baghdad) Detachment challenge coin possesses several striking symbols that specifically identify the MSG Baghdad mission. Dominating the Reverse’s center is the Iraqi State emblem, a gold and black eagle (representing the eagle of Saladin) looking to the left. The eagle is only utilized in several Arab states and is considered a symbol of Arab Nationalism following the 1952 Egyptian Revolution. On the eagle’s chest is a shield representing the Iraqi national flag with the Takbir (Arabic for “God is Great”) in the center white band. Clutched in the eagle’s feet is a scroll reading Jumhuriyat al-‘Iraq or “Republic of Iraq”. Behind the Iraqi State emblem are the three horizontal bands of red, white, and black representing the Iraqi flag and national colors. Here the black symbolizes the oppression endured by the Iraqi people; that is eventually overcome through bloody struggle represented by the red, and finally replaced by the white of Iraqi’s bright future. On the Reverse, lettering along the top edge reads “United States Embassy” identifying the facility of interest, while the bottom identifies the embassy’s location in “Baghdad, Iraq”.

Alternate Versions

The MSG kept the same design until circa 2010, using the coins not only for presentation purposes, but to raise funds for their local USMC Ball. This is an example of the 2010 MSG Baghdad Challenge Coin in polished brass;

Obverse
Obverse
Reverse
Reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Works Cited

1. Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Home. USMC. http://www.mcesg.marines.mil/ (accessed January 5, 2013).

2. Embassy of the United States Baghdad, Iraq. Home Embassy of the United States Baghdad, Iraq. http://iraq.usembassy.gov/ (accessed January 3, 2013).

3. —. Regional Security Office. https://iraq.usembassy.gov/security-office.html (accessed January 5, 2013).

4. Miles, Donna. News. American Forces Press Service. January 9, 2009. http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=52553 (accessed January 5, 2013).

5. Mizban, Hadi. News:World. Brent Jones. January 9, 2009. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2009-01-05-baghdad-embassy_N.htm (accessed January 5, 2013).

6. Maze, Rick. “Senate votes to grow Marine embassy force.” Marine Corps Times: News from Afghanistan & Iraq. Marine Corps Times. November 28, 2012. http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2012/11/marine-embassy-security-groupexpansion- 112812w/ (accessed January 10, 2013).

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