MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENYTNINE PALMS, Calif. --
In the early hours of Oct. 5, elements of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, bid farewell to their families, friends and fellow service members before departing for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Approximately 320 Marines and sailors from Company I and Weapons Company, 3/4, gathered on Victory Field before heading to Afghanistan. Other elements of the battalion departed for the region last week. The ‘Thundering Third’ is the second Combat Center battalion to deploy in force to Afghanistan since 2nd Bn., 7th Marines, spearheaded the return of Marines to the country in April 2008.
“We’re going to be split between three different provinces in Afghanistan under 7th Marine Regiment,” said Capt. Ryan Benson, the commander of Co. I. “Our mission is to provide security and build infrastructure for the local populous.”
Benson, who led Marines in Iraq in 2004, said the battalion has been training for this deployment for almost a year, including a month-long stint at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif.
“I expect them to perform exactly how they were trained,” said the Lake Villa, Ill., native. “Everything they trained for in [Enhanced] Mojave Viper was for this fight. The Marines are very well prepared for anything they are going to come into contact with over there.”
Despite the brisk temperature of the early morning air, morale among the Marines and sailors was high; they all felt like they were prepared for this deployment. Lance Cpl. Matthew Baker, a Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile gunner with Weapons Co., summed his feelings up in one word.
“Ready,” said the Baton Rouge, La., native.
For Baker, along with many of his fellow Marines, this is his first combat deployment. He said he has been preparing for this fight since he joined the Marine Corps.
“Afghanistan is where all of our [School of Infantry] instructors told us we’d probably be going,” he said. “Most of the training I’ve done has revolved around operations we’ll be conducting in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, at the 3rd CEB headquarters building, roughly 130 Marines and sailors from Company B, 3rd CEB were also saying goodbye to their friends and loved ones before departing the Combat Center for operations in Iraq.
While deployed to Iraq, Co. B will be responsible for building infrastructure and deconstructing the forward operating bases previously used by Marines, said 2nd Lt. Craig Zoellner, the adjutant for 3rd CEB.
As a result of the shift from troops in Iraq to Afghanistan, Co. B may be one of the last Marine Corps units to deploy to Iraq, said the St. Louis, Mo., native.
The rest of 3rd CEB is currently training for their upcoming deployment in support of combat operations to Afghanistan next year, Zoellner said.