MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Ceasing embraces with their loved ones for resolute grips on their rifles, approximately 550 Marines and sailors with 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, loaded buses from April 25-30, and departed on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.
The deployment is the artillery battalion’s first in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and marks a new mission in a different theater than their last deployment. In 2007 and 2009, 1/12 deployed to Iraq and supported Task Forces Military Police during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Upon arriving in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, 1/12 will replace 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. Unlike their last two deployments, however, 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
“Our primary mission is providing timely, accurate fires to whichever unit picks up the handset and requests it,” Lt. Col. Sean Charney, 1/12’s commanding officer, said. “For the infantry or any other units, knowing they have fire support backing them up eases their minds, and allows them to operate freely and accomplish their mission.”
The battalion’s three firing batteries will be augmented by one rocket battery and a target acquisition platoon from California-based units, growing the battalion’s strength to 800 Marines.
After returning from Iraq in 2009, 1/12 began refocusing its assets and capabilities to their primary function of shooting artillery, a transition involving numerous training evolutions on the Island of Hawaii and in California.
Cpl. Konrad Robson, an embarkation specialist with 1/12’s Headquarters Battery, said the transition took time, but allowed the battalion’s Marines to build proficiency and confidence in their abilities. Despite nearing the end of his contract, Robson extended his enlistment to join his fellow Marines on the deployment.
“What we’ve been doing over the past 10 years in Afghanistan is making history, and I want to be a part of that,” Robson, from Elgin, Ill., said. “We’re deploying so the people of Afghanistan can run their own country without our help and assets.”
Beyond their core competencies, Charney said the battalion will be “self-sustaining” in their capabilities of providing security to convoys and forward operating bases. With an eye to the future, 1/12 will also help to mentor and train the Afghan national security forces.
“We’re going to work a partnering mission with the Afghan forces, which will help the Afghan forces grow and become more competent,” Charney, from Lincoln Park, N.J., said. “As we saw before [in Iraq], this is the future. We have to mentor them and train them so they can then hold the security of their own country.”
Ishia Tellez, a 1/12 spouse, said spending time apart from her husband, and not having him close to help support their 3-month-old son, would be difficult. Even with these challenges, she said his sacrifice was worth it, and that she is already looking forward to having him home again.
“I support my husband because this is something he wanted to do,” Tellez said. “I don’t really want him to leave, but I know they are going to do good things out there.”
For the next seven months, spouses and families left behind don’t have an easy task, but they will be able to draw from a network of support. Whether it’s making crafts or watching a movie, the battalion family readiness officer and his assistants have scheduled monthly events in which families can participate. They’ve also worked to establish a resource and referral system to aid them in finding solutions for any issues that arise while their Marines and sailors are gone.
“Our goal is to create a higher morale during the deployment,” Erikah Messamer, a 1/12 family readiness assistant, said. “We’ll hold these events to build camaraderie between the wives, and make sure they’re not feeling left behind.”
One of the battalion’s firing batteries, Bravo Battery, will remain in Hawaii while 1/12 is deployed. During their dwell time, Bravo will provide fire support to 3rd Marine Regiment’s infantry battalions in training exercises on the island of Hawaii.
|Date Posted:||04.26.2011 18:15|
|Location:||MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, HI, US|
This work, Missions change, goodbyes remain the same: 'Kings of Battle' Marines depart on first deployment to Afghanistan, by SSgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.