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UDP battalion Iraq-bound for second tour

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 3/8/2004

Story by Cpl. Ryan D. Libbert

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan (Match 5, 2004) -- Marines and Sailors from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment recently departed Okinawa on a six-month deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

The battalion, which served two months with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division under the Unit Deployment Program, will be joining the rest of 1st Marine Division in Iraq for U.S. operations in the Sunni Triangle.

Fifty percent of the Marines with 1/5 served in the first Operation Iraqi Freedom last year in which the battalion suffered nearly 100 casualties. This time the mission will be based on reconstruction efforts, according to Lt. Col. Brennan T. Byrne, battalion commander.

"Our purpose for going to Iraq is to conduct stability and security operations, or SASO," Byrne mentioned. "We will combat against non-compliant forces to include former Saddam Hussein regime members and possible terrorist organizations. During that time we will also build up the Iraqi infrastructure by working with police forces and defense corps members there. It will be Gen. Krulak's three-block-war at its finest."

The battalion is reinforced with attachments from III Marine Expeditionary Force including translators, intelligence specialists and lawyers to assist the battalion in their SASO missions. Before leaving Okinawa, 1/5's training schedule was focused solely on their SASO role in Iraq.

"Before coming to Okinawa we did six months of training in California with Special Operations Training Group because we were under the assumption we were going to serve with the 31st (Marine Expeditionary Unit)," Byrne said. "Literally as we got here we were told we were going to Iraq. Luckily most of the training we did to prepare for the MEU encompassed the SASO training. We have spent the past two months on Okinawa refining what we learned. Third Marine Division has done a great job accommodating us with what we needed during our time here."

The battalion is expected to be in Iraq until September. However, Byrne expressed his Marines will proudly stay longer if Headquarters Marine Corps needs them there. Some may think with constant deployments to the Middle East and Okinawa, the operational tempo of this battalion would cause a decline in morale, but as Byrne explains, quite the opposite is occurring.

"The Marines are excited to go back to the desert," Byrne concluded. "These Marines joined the Corps to fight. Their enthusiasm and professionalism is keeping the morale of this battalion high. I have great confidence in their abilities."

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