News: Gators return home after six months in Japan
Story by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The day was filled with anticipation as families and friends waited to see the Marines they waved goodbye to six months ago. Many held signs of various shapes and sizes in one hand and an U.S. flag in the other, while they strained their eyes to see down the road that would lead their loved ones to them.
Before anyone caught a glimpse of the white buses filled with Marines and their gear, they heard the roar of a motorcycle honor guard leading the way. The buses pulled up and anticipation was replaced with celebration as families reunited with the Marines of Bravo Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, here, Nov. 14.
The Marines left as part of the Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa, Japan. During the deployment, they worked with foreign militaries and conducted various training exercises throughout the Pacific.
“We did a few exercises out of Okinawa,” said 1st Sgt. Paulin Gonzalez, the company first sergeant. “We also got the opportunity to go to Australia and do some exercises with the Australian military.”
The Marines conducted platoon and company training exercises at the Combine Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.
“We trained for whatever comes next,” said Cpl. Clifford Howard, an amphibious assault vehicle crew chief. “We focused on getting back to the basics and making sure everybody was in sync.”
The unit also participated in an officer exchange program with the Japanese military. This provided Marines with an opportunity to interact with and teach the Japanese officers about the Marine Corps’ capabilities. It also gave the company a chance to showcase what the battalion brings to the fight.
“Our unit is what makes the Marine Corps amphibious,” said Howard, a native of Dallas. “We can deliver (the infantry) from ship to shore in a single movement. We can do all this without any air support.”
Gonzalez, a native of Los Angeles, said the deployment was important as the Marines continue to train and maintain a high standard of proficiency for future operations.
“My Marines did an excellent job during the entire deployment,” Gonzalez said. “I’m thankful to them and for the support from their families.”
The support was apparent at the homecoming as the families and friends lined the streets to greet their servicemembers. As the Marines gathered their gear and the crowd of people began to leave, one boy yelled loudly that his daddy was home. After months of training thousands of miles away, these Marines were finally home with their families.