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Over the last six months, most of the Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment have grown personally or professionally, but it’s time for more change. Many are leaving the military for civilian vocations or school, while others are heading to other units.

Upon their return to to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Matthew Meyers and Kyle Littell are expected to step up and lead the next crop of young boots — a term for grunts who haven’t deployed.

“I think if you would have asked me or any of the newer guys if we were ready to take the reins at the beginning of the deployment, we would have all been a little apprehensive,” Meyers said. “But now, we are ready to jump in and take the wheel.”

Gone will be the leadership of Sgt. Donald Horn, an experienced squad leader with combat experience, and team leader Cpl. Logan Hampton; both are heading to the demanding Marine sniper program.

“We’re like the American multi-tool,” Hampton said. “The experience of being in these different environments just makes us that much more lethal.”

Platoon sergeant Staff Sgt. Mark Mlachak left the men as they cleaned their barracks and gear at the end of July. The quiet, always smiling squad leader, Cpl. Curtis Beam — who often deferred to Horn’s expertise early on — became a sergeant and took the reins of the platoon, confidently assisting its leader, 1st Lt. Matthew Mannion.

Mustang hopeful Lance Cpl. Andrew Luna submitted paperwork for embassy security.

Most were ready to return to Camp Lejeune, home-cooked meals, “real” sweet tea and family.

“I’m very excited to see my wife and kids,” platoon corpsman Jarrod Colby “Doc” Johnson said. “My youngest started saying da-da [while we were gone]. So it’s good they’re not really forgetting me.”

Johnson received his Fleet Marine Force specialist qualification pin just before leaving Japan. It was the highlight of the deployment for the Navy medic who wants to stay in the service.

Lance Cpl. Jacob Mathes was excited to get home so he could do the exact opposite.

“I’m ready to get home and get out of the Marine Corps and start a different life pretty much,” he said. Mathes plans to return to his hometown of Cincinnati in hopes of joining the fire department.

Lance Cpl. Jordan Carbo, known for his sense of humor, said he couldn’t wait to get back to Louisiana so he could don a Darth Maul costume and stand in line for the upcoming “Star Wars” premiere. He said he ended his Marine Corps career on a high note with the training.

Littell and Meyers will return in a year when the “Betio Bastards” rotate back to Asia. This time, they’ll be sharing their experience as the Unit Deployment Program comes full circle.

“We already know what to expect, how the weather is; we know the layout of all the bases,” Meyers said. “It will help us transition all the new guys in and let them know what to expect and how the jungle is.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.
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