MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines and sailors with the advanced party of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, staged their gear while family and loved ones took in every minute they had left with their service member before the buses departed during the early morning Thursday at the softball field.
The unit, consisting of approximately 100 Marines and sailors, deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and will be is replacing 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, who will be returning to the Combat Center.
“Our primary mission is to help increase the Afghan National Security Forces’ capacity,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Wittnam, battalion commander, 3/7. “We will be working with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to create stability within the region.”
Wittnam addressed the unit and gave his support to the families and loved ones who are staying back and supporting from home.
“We’ve been very busy over the last six months, training very hard,” Wittnam said. “But our families are resilient, and I think they are ready for this deployment because we have done everything that we can to help prepare them both mentally and emotionally.”
With the buses ready to go, the unit loaded their gear to begin their journey to Afghanistan. The last moments the Marines and sailors had with their families were solemn.
“The first few weeks are tough and it doesn’t get much easier,” said Carlye Bibb, wife of Cpl. Bradley Bibb, field radio operator, 3/7. “I try to stay focused and understand that they are over there for a reason.”
“I have very mixed emotions,” said Cecilia Demara, mother of Cpl. Francisco Demara, maintenance management chief, 3/7. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know what he’s accomplished, but at the same time it’s hard seeing him go away.”
For the Bibb and Demara families, this will be the second time they face the hardship of having a loved one deploy. They hope that the support given to them by the family readiness program and methods of communication will help get them through the eight-month deployment.
The Marines and sailors are slated to return in April of next year.
“I can’t imagine a unit that’s done more training than we have these past few months,” Wittnam said. “All of it has been progressive in nature. It’s all necessary for the fight ahead.”