JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The “Lava Dogs” of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, transferred its area of operations to the “Chosin Few” of the Army’s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, in a historic transfer of authority ceremony May 13 at Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan.
The Marines of 1/3 are returning home to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kanoehe Bay, after their five-month tour in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Soldiers of 1-32 Infantry, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., under the 3rd Bridade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, have been operating in the region since March as Task Force Chosin, and now assume the area previously held by a succession of Marine battalions from the 3rd Marine Regiment.
“The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines immediately started making a difference in the Kunar area, and have demonstrated great valor on the battlefield,” said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander, Combined Joint Task Force – 76. “Having seen you in action the last few months, I’m honored that you were a part of our combined joint task force. We’re thankful for your great Marines and their service to our nation. You will always be a part of the 10th Mountain Division, and you will always have a home in the North Country.”
Freakley pointed out that for the Chosin Battalion, this was not a true transfer, but an increased function of the area of operations they have already occupied. He lauded the accomplishments of the battalion so far, and urged continued success.
“Your brigade commander wanted you to come in here and work with the Marines, he wanted you to separate the enemy and its leadership from the people, he wanted you to make an immediate impact on the people, and he wanted to transform the environment,” Freakley said. “1/3 Marines and 1-32 Infantry have accomplished just that. I want you to continue to build on that success.”
This chapter of Operating Enduring Freedom continues a historic trend for 1-32 Infantry, whose Soldiers fought alongside Marines in previous wars, from the Pacific Islands of World War II, through the Korean War – particularly at the legendary battle of Chosin Reservoir – and more recently in the Global War of Terror, in Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom. That connection was noted by both of the battalion commanders as well as by Army Col. John M. Nicholson, commander, Combined Task Force Spartan, who termed the shared history “no accident.”
Nicholson spoke of the Lava Dogs’ commitment to their fellow comrades, vividly demonstrated by the battalion’s return to the field immediately after Operation Mountain Lion to recover the 10 Soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Kunar province on May 5. He then presented Task Force Lava with a plaque for their exceptional service, professionalism, and dedication to duty.
“Marines, you have conducted yourselves with honor, valor and commitment through four major operations, culminating in the largest operation conducted in the Korengal Valley to date,” said Nicholson. “You have achieved results that have never been accomplished. You demonstrated your valor on a daily basis, whether it was conducting a night air assault into landing zones frequented by the enemy, or demonstrating the courage to step forward and offer your hand in kindness to folks, not knowing what you would receive in return.”
Marine Lt. Col. James W. Bierman, commanding officer of 1/3 Marines, thanked General Freakley and Colonel Nicholson for their leadership and noted that the Lava Dogs leave the area of operations in the very capable and professional hands of Chosin. He recognized the contributions of the young Marines and Sailors – the ones who took the fight to the enemy, stood guard during long and cold hours, put bandages on the wounded, and traveled dangerous roads with the threat of improvised explosive devices – adding that it is their day and reminding the audience of those warriors who were lost.
“I’d like to recognize those that are conspicuous today by their absence, the 13 Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Afghan soldiers who gave their lives fighting with and alongside Task Force Lava over the last five months,” Bierman said. “We honor their memories, we will not forget them, and the greatest honor we can do for them is continue to give our best efforts in the cause for which they gave their lives.”
The commander of Task Force Chosin pledged to Bierman and the rest of 1/3 Marines that his battalion will uphold the standards they have set, and the standards and the honor of their mutual history.
“We’ve written many pages together with the United States Marine Corps, men of 1-32,” said Lt. Col. Christopher G. Cavoli. “We have written another in the past month, and we will continue to write those beautiful letters across the pages of our history. God bless you and have a good trip home. Semper Fi, Chosin.”