Marine battalion back at Camp Pendleton after 7-month deployment

Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, after a 7-month deployment that took them to Malaysia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti.


By JENNIFER HLAD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 24, 2015

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The Marines of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment returned to their families Monday after a packed seven-month deployment that had them getting ready for the worst.

The battalion’s Echo Company spent much of the deployment training with other militaries and preparing for combat operations, said Capt. Larry Iverson, the company commander. They went to Malaysia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and the waters around Yemen.

“We were very, very busy,” Iverson said. “I think we had a lot of fun… it felt like we were gainfully employed.”

Still, the Marines never got to put their preparations to the test.

The Battalion Landing Team and its parent unit, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent several weeks off the coast of Yemen, poised to respond for the possibilities of a plane going down or the embassy coming under attack, said Lt. Col. Coby Moran, commander of the BLT.

The Marines were eager to go fight some bad guys somewhere, Iverson said, but still appreciated the readiness opportunities they got.

And Monday, they were happy to be home. Communication with families is more challenging from a ship than during many deployments to Afghanistan, Moran said, and the Marines didn’t have access to wifi for Skype or FaceTime.

Leonela Gamboa said she was able to talk to her husband, Miguel, about once a week or so. But every morning, she made sure to show 1-year-old son Miguel Jr. photos or videos of his Daddy.

This was not Gamboa’s first deployment, but it’s harder with a child, Leonela said. Luckily, she said, her family was nearby to help out.

Lance Cpl. Hunter Mills said the deployment went by quickly, but it was very hard to miss the birth of his son, Jase.

Monday, wife Delanie showed him how to keep Jase’s face out of the sun as he got used to holding the 5-month-old baby.

The deployment was challenging, Delanie said, but “I knew what I was getting myself into.”

Nearby, Sgt. Aaron Jimenez’s daughters were dressed in matching pink-and-camouflage tutus and bows, handmade by their mother, Alecia. This was Jimenez’s third deployment, and it was particularly rough because so much time was spent on the ship, he said.

While he was away, 3-year-old Camila and 16-month-old Audrina looked at photos of their Daddy, but when the ships pulled into Hawaii on the way back home, he was able to make a Skype call.

“They went nuts; they loved it,” he said, hoisting Audrina up in the air.

The 11th MEU is composed of a ground unit — the BLT — a logistics element and an aviation element. In October, the aviation unit lost Cpl. Jordan L. Spears after he and another crew member bailed out of an MV-22 Osprey shortly after takeoff from the USS Makin Island.

Navy and Marine Corps teams rescued the other Marine but could not find Spears. His death was reclassified as the first in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission in Iraq and Syria.

Twitter: @jhlad

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