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"Evil Eyes" return from deployment with ESG-1, 13th MEU(SOC)

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 3/11/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. John Sayas

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (March 11, 2004) -- More than 250 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Marines returned home in formation here Monday afternoon after a six-month deployment throughout the western Pacific in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced) "Evil Eyes" arrived by ship over the weekend off the coast of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton with Expeditionary Strike Group 1 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). They flew the rest of the way home by helicopter shortly afternoon Monday as family and friends waited to welcome home their loved ones under the growing southern California heat at Hangar 6. The Marines flew 12 CH-46s and four CH-53s in formation over the air station before taxing in position in front of a crowd of cheering family and friends carrying signs and waving flags of support.

"It feels great," said Virgie Luna, wearing a Marine Mom t-shirt in support of her son Cpl. Joaquin E. Luna, cook, HMM-163. "I am so glad that he is back from where he was."

The trip home was not an easy one to deal with for many Marines because of the time it took to cross the Pacific, according to Capt. Mike E. Lindblom, a HMM-163 pilot.

Lindblom had more than a wife to get home to - a daughter who was just born last month. "I can't describe it. This is everything I asked for. She is perfect," expressed Lindblom as he stood admiring his one-month old daughter, Macy, in his arms. "You are happy that you are steaming home, but it's long. It takes a good six weeks to two months to get home."

The squadron was joined by an AV-8B Harrier detachment, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter detachment, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter detachment, and their supporting logistics and air control units, while attached to the 13th MEU(SOC) that supported ESG- 1.

13th MEU(SOC) forces participated in operations in Iraq, the North Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. The MEU conducted humanitarian assistance and security and stabilization missions in Iraq, as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom Maritime Interception Operations on land in southern Iraq and at sea in the Arabian Gulf during Operations Sweeney and Power Crude. They also patrolled international waters in the Red Sea and Horn of Africa to deter the transport of terrorist personnel and equipment, seizing several vessels including a drug-smuggling dhow, its 15 crewmembers, and 2,800 tons of hashish.

"I couldn't be prouder of every single Marine and Sailor in the 13th MEU for their professionalism during this deployment," said Col. Mike Regner, 13th MEU(SOC) commanding officer. "They did everything that was asked of them, and then some. It has been an honor to serve with these fine men and women."

Units who also returned with the 13th MEU(SOC) included Battalion Landing Team 1/1, MEU Service Support Group 13, and the MEU Command Element.

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