MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Marines and sailors of Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, returned to the Combat Center July 14, 2008, from a six-month deployment to Okinawa, Japan, and other countries throughout the Western Pacific.
Three buses filled with the battery’s Marines and sailors pulled up to Victory Field at approximately 1 p.m. There, the battery gathered in a formation and marched onto the field, a tradition kept by the battalion when returning home from a deployment.
Lima Battery was deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) on what is known as a WESTPAC deployment.
While attatched to the MEU, the battery conducted artillery training missions in the Philippines, Thailand, and Camp Fuji, Japan, and stopped between missions at their home port in Okinawa.
Lima Battery first arrived in the Philippines to train the Filipino military on the use of the M777A2 Lightweight Howitzer as part of annual training in Exercise Balikatan 2008. The battery then returned to Okinawa for three to four weeks, said 1st Lt. Peter Lee, a field artillery officer and a native of Glen Ellyn, Ill. They headed for Thailand next, but due to tropical storms had to spend almost two months off the coast of Myanmar.
Training at Camp Fuji was also cancelled due to scheduling and weather issues, which also ruined the plans for Exercise Cobra Gold 2008, joint annual training in Thailand, Lee added.
“We were teaching them about modern American techniques and equipment, as well as learning about jungle warfare and counterinsurgency from the Filipino military,” said Lee.
The MEU also dropped off 20 Marines and sailors from Lima Battery in Thailand to conduct training on a smaller level and cross train with other foreign militaries.
During the homecoming, friends and family waited eagerly for several hours to see the Marines and sailors of Lima Battery for the first time in six months.
Alicia Colburn, the fiancée of Cpl. Michael Lemke, a forward observer with Lima Battery, and a native of Adin, Calif., said that she and her fiancé were only dating before the deployment. Lemke proposed over the phone when he was able to have a clear conversation with Colburn.
“It was really hard to talk to him,” said Colburn, a Moreno Valley Calif., native. “Most of my talking with him happened when he was in Okinawa.”
Some of the families have been separated before due to deployments. This one, however, was not to Iraq, but a WESTPAC deployment, so there was less stress for some of the family members, said Jamie Allen, the key volunteer coordinator for Lima Battery and wife of Cpl. Troy Allen, a cannoneer with Lima Battery.
“I was not as worried this time,” said Allen, a Beaumont, Texas, native. “It was easier because there were more people here who understand my situation. On Troy’s last deployment I was back at home, and there were not as many people to identify with me.
“This was not as dangerous as his last one, it’s the Pacific, not Iraq,” she added about her feelings of where her husband was.
After the Marines and sailors of Lima Battery marched on to Victory Field, they were greeted with open arms by their waiting family and friends.
“When given the command, fall out and give your families a hug,” ordered 1st Sgt. Richard Estrada, Lima Battery first sergeant and a native of Beeville, Texas, prior to dismissing the battery from the formation.
Now that Lima Battery is back at the Combat Center, they will take some time off to see their friends and families and rest before they begin training for their next mission.