The Iraqi army’s recent triumph in Ramadi made it clear that its soldiers aren’t cut from the same cloth as those who ditched their gear and fled in terror from the Islamic State group in 2014 — and Marines have been a pivotal part of that transformation.

Hundreds of Marines have been quietly deploying over the past 16 months to assist the Iraqis fighting to retake territory, hard won by U.S. troops over the past decade or more, from brutal ISIS militants.

As 2015 drew to a close, the Iraqi army hoisted its flag above the center of Ramadi’s city center and declared victory. The seven-month struggle to retake the gateway city in western Anbar province was bloody and costly, but dealt ISIS a strategic blow and proved that the Iraqi military — with coalition air support — is capable of sustained offensive operations.

It also opened the door to greater U.S. involvement and a follow-on drive to retake the northern city of Mosul.