News: Rejoining the fight: 1/3 Lava Dogs leave for Afghanistan deployment
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
MARINE CORPS BASE, Hawaii - In the shadows past dim parking lot lights outside the Marine Corps Exchange Annex on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 13, 2011, approximately 300 Marines and sailors with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, joked and laughed as they loaded rows of green and brown deployment bags into semi trucks.
They were the first group of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors from 1/3 to leave Hawaii for a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The remainder of the battalion will say goodbye to their loved ones over the next following days.
“Our mission is to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces and conduct counterinsurgency operations in Garmsir, focusing on protecting the population, defeating the insurgents, and developing the ANSF and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in order to set the condition for stabilization, and transition to the host nation government and security,” Lt. Col. Sean Riordan, 1/3’s commanding officer, said.
The battalion will join Regimental Combat Team 1, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., only 10 months after returning from a deployment to Helmand province’s Nawa District in support of RCT-7. Contrasting their last deployment, 1/3’s area of operation will shift further south into the province’s Garmsir District, where they will replace 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
“In Nawa, there might have been an air of ‘been there, done that,’ but in Garmsir, we don’t have that,” Maj. Thomas Grace, 1/3’s battalion operations officer, said. “None of our Marines or the battalion leadership has been there, so it’s new ground for everyone across the board.”
Upon returning to Hawaii from Afghanistan in June 2010 and taking a short block of leave, 1/3 returned to the field and conducted training in Hawaii and California to prepare for the deployment. While originally scheduled to deploy in May, 1/3’s departure dates were moved up a month during their last training exercise in California.
“Initially it was a shock, but we covered the gaps by identifying the areas where we knew we were going to be short, and back-filled them with compressed training,” Grace, from Cherry Hill, N.J., said.
Despite 1/3’s shortened training schedule, the battalion’s leaders said their successful predeployment training program has prepared them for their mission, and will help strengthen foundations from the battalion level to the International Security Force’s Regional Command Southwest.
“The quality training we’ve received on the battalion and individual levels is far beyond anything I ever saw coming up in the Marine Corps,” Sgt. Maj. Dwight D. Jones, 1/3’s battalion sergeant major, said. “From combat hunter training, to counter-[improvised explosive device], to the [IED detection dogs] that we use, all of these training devices are more tools for our Marines and sailors to employ when we’re performing security operations in Afghanistan.”
Jones, from Brownsville, Tenn., said 1/3 is a “learning battalion” and will use their knowledge to build off of 2/1’s success in the district, especially regarding 2/1’s employment of counter-IED procedures, counter-insurgency operations and governance.
“The men of 1/3 are writing history that will be read about in years to come,” Jones said. “They have the opportunity to have a great influence in transitioning two districts in Afghanistan, which is very significant. We recognize there is a terrorist threat and we’ll deal with it accordingly, but the bigger picture is trying to get the people of the district, and of Afghanistan, on their feet so they can operate independently.”