MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, departed the Combat Center Aug. 26 and 27 on a seven-month deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
More than 1,000 Marines and sailors left the Unit Marshalling Area in the early and mid-morning hours of both days to the waves and tears of their families and loved ones.
1st Lt. Evan Bradley, executive officer of Weapons Company, said the battalion has the initial mission of helping with security and training local police forces.
“We’re trying to transition to operational over watch,” explained Bradley, a native of Blue Island, Ill. Bradley added that the long-term goal of the deployment is to slowly turn more control over to the local government and civilian population.
“Basically we’re going to let the [Iraqi security forces] take control,” said Bradley. “We’re going to stick by their side, but we want the Iraqi face to be on everything happening.”
Bradley said he was confident his Marines and sailors were ready to meet the mission head on after a successful Mojave Viper.
Bradley also said even though the pre-deployment training went well for 3/7, the battalion would continue to receive training on counter-insurgency, local customs and languages while on their way to Iraq.
“We’re going to continue educating them as we go over,” said Bradley. “We’ll teach them all the things that will combine to make us win.”
While families also expressed their belief that 3/7 was well-trained and ready to bring the fight to the enemy, many admitted it was hard to see their Marines and sailors go.
Amanda Bennett, wife of Staff Sgt. Verice Bennett, platoon sergeant, India Company, said she dealt with her husband’s previous deployments, which included participation in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, by concentrating on work and obtaining her bachelor’s degree. However, Bennett a native of Seattle, confessed this deployment was a little harder due to the presence of their son, Sekye.
“It doesn’t get any easier, and kids make it sadder,” said Bennett, who is due to give birth to the couple’s second child in January, two months before 3/7 is scheduled to return home.
The family of Lance Cpl. Joseph Michael Peregrina, a rifleman with Kilo Company, were also saddened by the departure of their loved one, but said they were proud of Peregrina and happy to see him fulfilling a lifetime goal.
“He always had the passion to become a Marine,” said Jonette Tusques, a family friend who helped raise Peregrina. “Every conversation had Marines in it.”
Lori Rogors, 3/7’s family readiness officer, said the families will continue to receive news and updates about their Marines and sailors through the battalion’s newsletter.
Rogers, a native of Victoria, Texas, said families and not just spouses will continue to receive the knowledge and resources needed to guide them through the deployment until the Marines and sailors of 3/7 arrive home in early Spring.