CAMP PENDLETON - Marines are used to being the first to fight, but they are on the sidelines in Iraq.
The leader of Task Force Al Asad in Iraq has returned to Camp Pendleton after a nine-month deployment.
He said there were a lot of awkward moments in planning meetings at first.
"Probably the toughest was to sit back and not understand fully the politics that were going on in some of the discussions," Col. Casey explained.
He and his team of 26 prepared for the cultural blocks and language barriers ahead of time. They learned from Iraqi instructors at San Diego State University and went through intensive training, which was tailored to the area they were going.
"I can't tell you how many times I actually gave a little smile and said, 'My gosh, I've seen this before'," he said.
They had to have patience with Iraqi soldiers.
"They don't have Internet everywhere, so we really can't say 'Make an Excel spreadsheet and do it that way'," he explained.
"It's not how we would do it," Casey said. "It's how they would do it."
They put long-term systems in place and coached Iraqi forces. Then, coalition forces executed the attacks.
"They are no longer feeling as though ISIS has the ability to defeat them," he said. "Now, as it occurs, the Iraqis are doing it for themselves,"
They are becoming the first to fight for their country. Casey just had one meeting before heading home.
"There was this long, awkward silence," he said. "I think it struck the both of us. We really didn't know how far our relationship had come and how close we had gotten."
He now considers the Iraqi colonel a friend.
A team of 27 recently left Camp Pendleton to take over for that task force.