MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
As the adjutant’s command echoed throughout Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, hundreds of spectators silently watched as the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted their final pass and review. The battalion, ordered deactivated by the Marine Corps, drew a crowd of distinguished guests and veterans of the unit, which holds a reputation as the most deployed Marine Corps battalion this past decade. They and the Marines and sailors before them knew this wasn’t the battalion’s first deactivation, nor would it be the last.
Marines, sailors, families, friends and distinguished guests gathered to witness the casing of 3/4’s colors at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, May 30, 2014.
“There are 12 infantry battalions in the 1st Marine Division,” said Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general, 1st Marine Division. “Tomorrow there will be 11. That is a loss all of us will feel.”
The battalion, nicknamed ‘Darkside,’ was activated in 1925 at Naval Base San Diego, according to the unit’s official history. They were reactivated six times throughout United States military engagements in the 89 years that followed, leaving their mark across distant lands.
“From the build-up of forces in Kuwait, to the march to Baghdad, to the draw-down of forces in Helmand and the closure of Now Zad. Darkside Marines and sailors have been there,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Kenney, commanding officer, 3/4.
Nicholson and Kenney stood before the battalion to observe the pass and review. The Marines and sailors of Headquarters and Service Company, Co. I, Co. K, Co. L, and Weapons Company rendered their last salute as a unit to their commanders on memorial ground named after one of their very own fallen comrades.
“There were 24 of our [Marines and sailors] killed in action this past decade,” Kenney said. “I find it perfectly fitting today that we’re deactivating our historic battalion on a field named after a Darkside Marine, Lance Cpl. Torrey Gray, whom was killed in action in Iraq.”
The history of the battalion was read aloud to all present, spanning their deployments, service and Marines that built the reputation it has today. Kenney and Sgt. Maj. Michael Miller, battalion sergeant major, 3/4, then took their posts to case the battalion’s colors.
“Today, with a heavy heart, I will dismiss the battalion,” Kenney said. “I know it’s not a matter of if we’ll reactivate, but when, and that will be when the nation needs warriors.”
With the colors cased, and an intent to keep them at home aboard the Combat Center, it was time to dismiss the battalion that accomplished five deployments to Iraq, one unit deployment program, and three deployments to Afghanistan within a decade.
“We’re not saying goodbye to these colors,” Nicholson said. “We’re saying goodnight. Take a well-deserved break after a decade of war. When our country needs to, it will say once again for the seventh time, 3/4 up."