Home safe: 3rd Marine Division troops recall Iraq tour, look ahead to life
August 31, 2008
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa—About 75 troops from the 3rd Marine Division returned Friday morning from a seven-month deployment to Iraq.
The Marines and sailors, mostly from the division’s Combat Assault Battalion based at Camp Schwab, were deployed to Anbar province in support of the division’s Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
The returning troops departed Okinawa in October for pre-deployment training at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and arrived in Iraq in February.
For the battalion’s engineers, the deployment focused on force protection — from building barriers and monitoring traffic control points to working with the Iraqi army, said Staff Sgt. James Peebles.
The engineer company also helped the Iraqi army build two medical clinics. "It showed they were taking control of their country and progressing forward," Peebles said.
There were many late nights and long hours for the battalion’s truck company, said Staff Sgt. Jesus Longoria.
He said the unit completed more than 100 convoys, "which is pretty good because everyone came back." This was the first deployment for most in the group, both staff sergeants said.
"Most had never been anywhere," Peebles said. "We got them fresh out of school. ... [But they] performed beyond my expectations."
Lance Cpl. Tyler Light, 22, a vehicle operator, said he came to Okinawa straight from his military occupational school and deployed two weeks later.
"I loved it. I’d go back in a heartbeat," Light said. "It’s what people sign up for. They don’t sign up to be in garrison; they sign up to be in a war zone."
Cpl. Richard Lemus, 23, a wrecker operator, said being in Iraq took some adjusting.
"It was ‘I’m in Iraq, let’s put the game face on’ … but after a while, you got use to it," Lemus said of working outside the wire with Iraqis.
Col. Tom Connally, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, greeted the Marines upon their arrival to Kadena and urged them to take it easy for the next few days and adjust back to garrison life.
"The first thing going through your minds is: ‘I want to take a shower, drink a beer and go do something,’ " Connally told the returning troops. "There are plenty of things to do, but you don’t have to do them tonight."
Light said his big plan is to just relax.
"I’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on," he said.