MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- The first wave of Marines and Sailors deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) hit the beaches of Camp Pendleton Monday morning after a six-and-a-half-month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Families of the deployed Marines and Sailors overwhelmed their loved ones with joy and open arms.
“I’m very happy and excited because Mark is back with our son and I,” said Becky Quinto, wife of Cpl. Mark Quinto, data clerk, 13th MEU (SOC) Command Element.
Shortly before her husband’s departure she gave birth to their son. According to Becky Quinto, when she heard the news that her husband was returning early from deployment she was thrilled.
“I was teary eyed when I saw him,” she said.
The MEU returned home to San Diego two months earlier than its originally scheduled return date. Most who deployed with the MEU mentally prepared for a return date of late April. When the news of an early return was announced over the ship’s speakers aboard the USS Peleliu the ship’s personnel were filled with mixed emotions.
Sgt. Rogelio D. Pedrano, team leader, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Detachment, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), said he was glad but at the same time disappointed at the news.
“I prepared myself for an eight month deployment,” he said. “I kind of wanted to do more, like go back deeper into Iraq.”
But according to Pedrano, as the ship sailed closer and closer to home, the thought of an early return began sounding better and better.
“I have friends and family waiting at home and they’re all happy for me,” he said. “I’m ready to get off the ship.”
The Fighting 13th, part of Expeditionary Strike Group One, participated in operations in Iraq, the Northern Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. While in Iraq, the MEU provided more than 3,000 gallons of water to Iraqi citizens on the Al Faw peninsula, conducted security patrols, which included riverine patrols in support of maritime interception operations, and destroyed more than 2,000 pounds of ordnance.
During a split Amphibious Ready Group operation, selected Marines and Sailors of the MEU participated in Exercise Edged Mallet in Kenya, while others stayed aboard ship, cruising around the Navy Fifth Fleet region. In Kenya, the MEU conducted humanitarian aid to the locals while training hand in hand with Kenya’s military force.
On Dec. 31, 2003, while in the Northern Arabian Gulf, the MEU’s Maritime Special Purpose Force, along with Sailors of the ESG, seized a dhow carrying 2,800 pounds of hashish worth approximately $11 million.
“I couldn’t be prouder of every single Marine and Sailor in the 13th MEU for their professionalism during this deployment,” said Col. Mike Regner, 13th MEU (SOC) commanding officer. “They did everything that was asked of them, and then some. It has been an honor to serve with these fine men and women.”
Units which returned with the MEU include Battalion Landing Team 1/1, HMM-163 (Rein), MEU Service Support Group 13 and the MEU Command Element.