Photo Information

Photo by Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

Return of the ‘Darkside’;3/4 first ground unit to complete triple OIF tours

31 Jul 2005 | Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

There was a little person waiting for Lance Cpl. Jeremy A. Wortman, rifleman, as he stepped off the bus that brought him home after seven months in the Middle East. A three-month-old infçant wearing a digital camouflage baby outfit opened his eyes to see his daddy.Sunday was the first time Wortman saw his son in person. The baby was born just a few months before 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment returned fro duty in Iraq.More than 800 Marines and Sailors from 3 /4 returned to the Combat Center July 29 though 31.The battalion became part of history after they completed their third seven-month tour of duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.The battalion is the first ground unit in the Marine Corps to complete three deployments in support of the ongoing global war against terror. Marines were surprised as they stepped off their bus to be greeted by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps and his wife, Silke.“The nation is proud of your accomplishment,” said the commandant to the Marines. “Welcome home and thank you for doing an outstanding job in Iraq.” Two years, three months, three weeks and more than 20 days ago the men of 3/4 led by then 3/4 battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian McCoy, entered Baghdad and were greeted as conquering heroes.Major news stations revealed several hundred Iraqis pour into Firdos Square shouting, “Saddam no! Bush, yes!A timeless clip showed a 1st Tank Battalion Hercules tank retriever assist the Iraqi people by pulling down astatue of the infamous Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. After the statue was pulled down, the crowd placed a pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag on the statue’s base.After serving as one of the lead combat elements during OIF 1, 3 /4loyed in December 2003 to support the security and stability operations there. This time around the battalion focused on knocking on doors vice breaking them down as they strived to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. At the time only 50 percent of the battalion’s force was comprised of OIF veterans.Yet with the insurgency in full swing, the unit would face some of its toughest battles. In early April 2004, the battalion went to Fallujah to take part in an assault on the city a few days after four American contractors were killed there.The assault was eventually aborted.Led by battalion commander Lt. Col. Andrew Kennedy, 3/ 4 called to Iraq again in mid-January and took on the responsibility to deploy one month earlier than scheduled to help provide security for Iraq’s elections. This time two-thirds of the battalion’s men were on their third tour.One Marine, Lance Cpl. Juan C. Venegas, was killed on April 7, 2005, during the last tour. He is the sixth Marine from the 3/4 to be killed since the outbreak of the war.The rest of the Marines and Sailors--most of whom spent more time in Iraq over the past two years than at home--returned to their thankful families.For many families, the level of worrying never changed throughout the three deployments.“This time around I felt the same way I did when my son deployed for the first time,” said former Marine Vic Luna, father of 22-year-old Cpl. Wes M. Luna, Food Service. “We were scared as heck, and it was a very stressful time for us. This deployment we did hear from him more through telephone calls than previous deployments. Unfortunately this isn’t totally over. Our son is back but we still have Marines in Iraq, and I consider them my sons as well.” While 3 /4 has already answered the call to duty three times in the last three years, the possibility of them going back to Iraq a fourth time still exists.According to Kennedy, after the unit returns from block leave, training will begin again. His goal is to ensure that 3/ 4’s Marines are always ready when the nation is least ready.
Headquarters Marine Corps