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More Miramar Marines deploy in support of OIF


MAG-16 FORWARD(April 4, 2003) -- The Marines Corps did not obtain a reputation as "America's 911 force" easily; it has been earned more than 200 years of successful last-minute operations and deployments to protect freedom around the world.

Seventy-five Marines lived up to that reputation Friday as they departed Miramar to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Central Command Area of Responsibility.

In what has become a familiar sight here, the Marines said goodbye to family and loved ones, checked out weapons from the armory and conducted final preparations before departing on their long journey.

"These Marines' main duties will be to act as camp guard and rear security at forward air bases in (the Central Command AOR,)" said Gunnery Sgt. Gary W. Wood, Staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Marine Aircraft Group 16 Force Protection Platoon.

Wood, whose 17-year career includes participation in the Gulf War, exuded a calm nature the night of the departure and did not seem bothered by the hurried nature of the deployment.

"This is Desert Storm two for me," Wood said. "Everything has gone smooth so far. We've had months to prepare for this evolution and everybody seems focused and able to stay together."

The majority of the Marines represent squadrons from within MAG-16 such as Marine Aviation and Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, MAG-16 Personnel Support Detachment and Marines from other squadrons as well.

Wood, a Washington native, mentioned information regarding the deployment may have been unclear at first, but the "kinks" were worked out at the time of departure.

"There were several personnel changes and additions at the last minute," said Wood. "I was scheduled to go at first, was taken off the flight, then put back on again as the SNCOIC of the Security Platoon."

Though the Force Protection Marines' military occupational specialties are more technical in nature, Wood had no worries about their ability to carry out their missions as camp guard.

"We have squared away NCOs in our ranks - the Marines are in good hands," Wood said.

The Marines of the Force Protection Platoon, whose duties usually involve aircraft maintenance or office work, seemed ready for anything as they waited for the bus ride to their airplane. Recently-issued bayonets hung from pistol belts, weapons were slung over shoulders and the Marines, all basic riflemen, displayed "thousand-yard stares" as they stood in formation before their departure.

"I can't believe I'm going to the Middle East," said Lance Cpl. Steven L. Breazeale, micro miniature computer and cable repair technician, MALS-16.

Breazeale, from Miss., said his thoughts were of his family as he prepared to deploy.

"I talked to my family at least once a day this week," the 21-year-old said. "I felt better when they told me they were proud of me."

Even with the possibility of contact with enemy forces, Breazeale seemed to have no worries.

"I'm here for the T-shirt," he joked before sobering and explaining. "This job is what I've been trained to do; I'm ready for action."

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