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Marines, Sailors return from Russia

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 7/16/2003

Story by Sgt. Danny L. Patterson

ABOARD THE USS FORT MCHENRY(July 15, 2003) -- Nearly 200 Marines from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force returned to Okinawa July 11, after a two-week deployment aboard the USS Fort McHenry to Vladivostok, Russia.

The majority of Marines who took part in the deployment are from Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. There were also Marines attached from other commands within III MEF such as 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; Company A, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment; 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion; and Marine Corps Base.

According to 1st Sgt. Jamie J. Hunt, Headquarters and Service Company first sergeant and acting sergeant major for Combat Assault Battalion, the experience was great for the Marines who participated.

"The Marines had a good time and took care of each other," Hunt said. "They represented the Marine Corps well by being very professional at all times."

While in Russia, the Marines set up static displays for the Russian military visitors as well as a group of 45 orphans from the Vladivostok Group Home. The Marines explained their equipment to visitors and even had the opportunity to go aboard a Russian ship for a tour.

For Independence Day, the Marines and Sailors of the USS Fort McHenry invited many guests to celebrate the holiday with food, drinks and fellowship.

Hunt explained that the deployment provided a unique experience for the Marines.

"Russia is a very historical place rich in culture. I hope every Marine had the chance to not only share our culture but experience theirs also," Hunt said. "We also showed that we are definitely good ambassadors of the U.S. no matter where we go and I am proud."

For some, the experience proved to be an eye-opener to the culture and lifestyle in the city.

"Russia has been through so many changes throughout the decades. Seeing the status of their military and culture makes me think sometimes we take for granted the good things we have," said Sgt. Patrick D. Hopewell, ground communication technician for Headquarters and Service Company, Combat Assault Battalion.

Hopewell also had the chance to trade some military items such as chevrons and covers with the Russians.

"They were just as eager to trade for our things as we were for theirs that we couldn't supply enough items to trade with them," he said.

Hopewell said this was an experience of a lifetime that he will never forget.

"This trip is definitely something I will pass down to my grandchildren someday. I had a great time and hope to possibly return some day," he concluded.

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