MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- For the past eight months, Marines and Sailors with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment, have been sharpening their combat skills here in preparation for their 14-month deployment to Iraq.
The culmination of their training was reached Jan. 27 the day they began their deployment.
The company congregated at the Combat Center’s West Gym on the night of Jan. 26 to spend their final moments with their families and friends. At 2 a.m., the platoon sergeants took role, they boarded the buses and began their trip to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The company was formed into different elements involving different missions. In addition to working as a headquarters and service element, the company is tasked with providing their own provisional rifle platoon and a jump team - tasks ordinarily assigned to infantry units. These elements will be known as Regimental Combat Team 7 and will have their own internal capabilities, said Capt. Randal M. Walsh, commanding officer of Headquarters Co.
“There are many advantages to these elements and it relieves stress from infantry command elements,” he said. “The colonel needs to go out and see his men, so the jump team will provide him with the convoy and security. Other line units will also be able to turn to us, other than infantry battalions, for infantry support. We measure up to a quick reaction force.”
All the Marines in these platoons have been identified by their section leaders and are mostly volunteers, added Walsh.
“I feel like we’re definitely ready to go over there and do what we were trained to do,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew F. Shipley, machine gunner with the PRP. “It’s going to be a long deployment, but we’re ready to take on what’s thrown at us.”
Moments before the Marines boarded the buses, Col. William B. Crowe, regimental commanding officer, 7th Marine Regiment, addressed the families and friends of the deploying Marines and Sailors.
“Thank you for giving us your husbands, sons and brothers,” he said. “Our job couldn’t be done without them. Our mission is to maintain a presence in the streets, and we will be persistent. We’ll support infantry time-to-time. We’re going out there to win. This couldn’t be done without your support, and we will stay committed to God, to our family and to the Corps.”
Cpl. Jason G. Alvarez, communications technician, will be deploying for the first time. His parents, his wife, and his brothers feel most of the anxiety.
“I’m sad and worried,” said Gustavo Alvarez, Jason’s father. “I’m not sure of what will happen over there. He doesn’t tell us much of what he does because he knows we will worry. I just wish him well, and I will be praying for him night and day.”
The company kicked off their training in September, conducting many field exercises training for convoy operations and enhancing their marksmanship skills. Their main mission is bringing supplies between bases in Iraq and creating their own security for convoys, said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey P. Jones, company gunnery sergeant.
“This company is probably the best headquarters company we’ve had go out there,” said Jones. “We had better training skills and more survival skill this time. I will be left behind because I’m retiring in August but I wish them the best.”