Photo Information

Alexandra Soltis, 3, wears a foam finger welcoming her father, Staff Sgt. Michael Soltis, India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, back to the Combat Center. India Battery deployed to Okinawa with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during the first week of May and returned to the Combat Center Dec. 7.

Photo by Cpl. Evan M. Eagan

Combat Center units return from Western Pacific

7 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Evan M. Eagan

Roughing a cold desert night, friends and family members of the Marines and Sailors of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, excitedly awaited the arrival of their loved ones Dec. 7 at Victory Field.

Three nights later, it was a familiar scene as the Marines and Sailors of Bravo Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, also returned to the Combat Center, greeted by a group of ecstatic family and friends.

Both units returned recently after separate training deployments in the Western Pacific theater.

India Battery headed for Okinawa where they were officially attached to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) during the first week of May, according to 1st Lt. Clarence E. Loomis, executive officer, India, 3/11.

During their deployment, the Marines and Sailors of India remained busy with various training operations in two countries.

During the last week of June and the first two weeks of July, the battery conducted combined arms training with other units of the BLT at Camp Fuji, Japan, where they shot, successfully and safely, 450 artillery rounds on the East Fuji Maneuver Area.

Later in the summer, the battery participated in a BLT exercise and conducted fire missions in support of operations by line companies. They also conducted riot control operations and a non-combatant evacuation mission, said Loomis.

India served as the non-lethal weapons unit for the BLT and played a role in the 31st MEU receiving its special-operations-capable qualification, and they took part in a MEU exercise designed to demonstrate its capabilities to the Special Operations Training Group.

In October, India embarked on the USS Juneau to take part in an amphibious landing exercise in the Philippines.

After disembarking at Subic Bay, they conducted a 70-mile road march to Ft. Magsaysay in the Luzon area of the Philippines.

“In the Philippines we cross-trained with the Filipino Marines,” said Cpl. Domingo Villarreal, a Chicago native, and vehicle operator with 3/11’s motor transportation section. “We taught them about the howitzers, and they taught us how to survive in the jungle.”

Returning home to a large crowd of family and friends, the Marines were glad to be back at the Combat Center.

“I’m so happy to be back,” said Lance Cpl. Charles Burton, 20, radio operator liaison, India, 3/11 and California native. “I’m going home to Moreno Valley tonight with my buddy. I’m going to hang out with my family and handle some business. I’m just so excited to be home.”

Bravo, 3rd LAR, returned Saturday night after spending more than seven months deployed to Japan.

The training Bravo conducted ranged from sending their scouts to instruct Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 on infantry tactics and small unit tactics for their future deployment to Iraq, to firing all organic weapon systems in their arsenal.

“This was a normal UDP rotation,” explained 1st Lt. George Bartimus, executive officer, Bravo, 3rd LAR, referring to the unit deployment program. “We participated in some CAB [combat assault battalion] exercises and live fire exercises at Camp Fuji. No real live fire training can compare to the training here at Twentynine Palms, but we made the most of it.”

The Marines also had the opportunity to visit a historic World War II battleground on Iwo Jima where they received a company period of military education on the battle that took place there more than 60 years ago.

“Iwo Jima was really neat,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Cawthon, an Amarillo, Texas, native, and light-armored vehicle crewman, Bravo, 3rd LAR. “We got to see where John Basilone died, invasion beach, the battalion cemetery, and then we got to go up Mt. Suribachi where they raised the flag. It humbles you.”

Upon returning, the Marines were all smiles as they reunited with their loved ones and looked forward to going on leave.

“It feels great to be back,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Goldschmidt, a Hutchinson, Minn., native, and LAV mechanic, Bravo, 3rd LAR. “I’m looking forward to going home on leave.”

After their leave ends the company will continue to train here and get ready for another possible deployment to Japan next year.
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