Marine reservists will deploy to Okinawa to give Iraq vets a break
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine reservists from New England are being sent to Okinawa for a six-month deployment, freeing Marines from Twentynine Palms, Calif., who were scheduled to deploy to the Japanese island after duty in Iraq.
About 1,200 reservists called up for a year for duty in Iraq, but who remained in the United States, are to arrive at Camp Schwab in mid-June, said 1st Lt. Amy Malugani, a Marine Corps public affairs officer on Okinawa.
The reservists are with the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. They were mobilized in January, just as about 20,000 of the base’s 30,000 troops were leaving for the Middle East.
The battalion’s deployment to Okinawa, which could include stints of training elsewhere in the Pacific, will be a change of climate for the reservists, who have been dubbed the “Arctic Warriors.”
The 25th Marine Regiment is one of three infantry regiments within the 4th Marine Division and is prepared primarily for cold weather war conditions. It trains frequently in northern Norway.
Units of the regiment are located from Maine to Delaware, although most members of the 1st Battalion hail from Ayer, Mass.; Topsham, Maine; Londonderry, N.H.; and Plainville, Conn.
According to an Associated Press report, many members of the battalion expected to be sent to Iraq.
“It’s difficult when you’re snapping in on the rifle range and the war is starting,” said Cpl. Ron O’Brien, 23, a Wall Street broker from Ridgefield, Conn. “You start thinking about your friends who have passed away.”
O’Brien lost his best friend in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. “I don’t complain because of him,” he said, according to the AP report.
Maj. John Grella, 35, a federal law-enforcement officer from Hampton, N.H., said the deployment is a great break for the unit.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Reserve battalion to get a chance to go to the Far East,” he said.
While on Okinawa they will be assigned to Camp Schwab, one of the Marines’ northern camps, and participate in jungle warfare training.
Malugani said the battalion’s deployment would give other Marines returning from Iraq a chance to spend time with their families.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.