News: Island Warriors deploy to Afghanistan
Story by Christine Cabalo
Stopping only to say goodbye to loved ones, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, began the more than 7,900-mile journey to Afghanistan Nov. 11, Nov. 12 and Nov. 14
Lance Cpl. Eron Clarke, rifleman, Weapons Company, and the rest of the “Island Warriors” savored the last moments spent with their families.
“We’re not really scared to go to Afghanistan,” said Clarke, 19, of Houston. “But going away from our families wears on us.”
Clarke’s family met with his squad leader as well as other members of his unit in the days before their departure. His parents said the time together was invaluable, and then learned more about what to expect during deployment.
“We realize he has a job to do,” Clarke’s mother said.
It’s a job that Marines of 2/3, including Sgt. Joe Solberg, rifleman, Weapons Co., have physically trained for and will spend the next seven months focused on. Solberg, a 23-year-old native of Fargo, N.D., said he’ll miss having the freedom of driving around lush Oahu, but is determined to carry out the mission.
“I hope to meet the local Afghan people and see how they live,” Solberg said. “We’ve been learning how they live in classes. But living with them and helping them as much as I can, that’s what I’d like to try to do.”
It’s the first deployment for some, like Lance Cpl. Ian Moon, mortarman, Weapons Co.
Moon, a 20-year-old from Port Charlotte, Fla., said the unit readied for deployment in many ways: training at Pohakuloa Training Area, Enhanced Mojave Viper exercises in California and in simulators at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Support for the Island Warriors has come from loved ones as well as help from civilian organizations. A group from the University of Texas will be writing letters and sending care packages to several Marines in the battalion to boost morale. Students from St. Anthony Catholic School in Kailua also packed snacks for the “Island Warriors,” since many in the unit volunteer their time to mentor at the school.
The group will be relieving 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who are stationed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The two battalions will be together long enough to turn over jobs before the rest of 3/3 returns to K-Bay. The Island Warriors deploy just one year after holding a memorial to the battalion’s nine Marines and one Navy corpsman killed in action in 2009.
The risks of combat and the length of separation weigh in the minds of family members, including Lance Cpl. Lanny Dobbs, rifleman, Weapons Co., and his wife. The two are middle-school sweethearts, who met in woodshop. It will be the couple’s first deployment and the longest time they’ve been apart, said Dobbs, from Lake Stevens, Wa. But the two have handled storms together, including the February 2010 tsunami scare in Hawaii.
“We were married on ‘Tsunami Saturday,’” he said. “We even have matching tattoos that say, ‘Never Forget.’”
Dobbs’ wife said she was proud of her husband and plans to stay connected through web chats. Dobbs looks forward to helping the Afghan police and soldiers become self-sufficient before coming back to K-Bay safely.
Others leave behind their spouses and children, including Weapons Co. Cpls. Dustin Lee, Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided gunner, and Eric Williams, mortarman. While each have deployed before, both say it’s always difficult leaving behind family. The two leave behind infant sons, but focus on the tasks ahead of them.
“I want to do my mission and come home safe,” said Williams, from Mullins, S.C. “I want to keep my Marines safe.”