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CLB-7, 3rd LAR come home to warm welcome

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Monica C. Erickson and Pfc. Michael T. Gams, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

It was a chilly, damp Sunday morning Sept. 6, when the Marines and sailors exited the bus — a stark contrast to the sweltering climate the service members from Combat Logistics Battalion 7 had grown accustomed to during their eight-month deployment to Iraq.

Later in the week, Sept. 8, nearly 80 personnel from 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion also returned home but weren’t as lucky. They returned in the middle of the day to temperatures similar to those of they remembered from Iraq.

Nearly 100 Marines and sailors from CLB-7 returned to the Combat Center’s Victory Field Sunday morning amid a sea of welcome-home banners, balloons and smiling faces. Tuesday afternoon found a similar crowd flooding the field as 3rd LAR Marines and sailors were welcomed home to the waiting arms of friends and families.

CLB-7 deployed in February with a mission to provide security to the area surrounding Camp Korean Village in Western Iraq until the Army could take control in early July, said 1st Sgt. Michael Miller, the senior enlisted Marine with CLB-7.

During their deployment, CLB-7 also provided logistical support for other deployed units, and supplied fuel, food and water to the camp, said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Hardy, the family readiness officer for CLB-7.

The battalion then shifted its operations to Al Asad where they continued to provide security until their return.

“It feels great to be home,” said 1st Lt. Vonn Deguzman, the third platoon commander for Support Company with CLB-7. “It doesn’t even smell like Lake Bandini this morning.”

While deployed, the Marines and sailors of 3rd LAR conducted security patrols throughout the Al Asad region in Iraq while ensuring all the light armored reconnaissance gear and equipment was returned state-side.

“We are the last LAR battalion to be deployed to Iraq,” said 1st Sgt. Raymond Clark, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of 3rd LAR’s remain behind element. “It is important that as the war in Iraq winds down the Iraqi people see the Marines in a non-attacking, supportive role to their nation.”

As the family members and friends waited for their loved ones, they made a sign with the printed names and traced handprints of all the children of the Wolfpack Marines. Above the handprints was a message that read, “Welcome home Wolfpack, from the Wolfpups.”

There were also 21 newborn babies in the crowd who were waiting to meet their fathers for the first time.

During the deployment, family members received support from Jillian King, 3rd LAR’s family readiness officer.

“We started preparing for their homecoming before they even deployed,” said the Rapid City, S.D., native. “We held monthly meetings, support groups, legal briefs, and informational briefs that covered everything a wife may need to know. We set up a mass communication tool where I contacted the families once a month throughout the deployment—and as we started getting dates for their arrival, I started contacting them weekly.”

King said the families were more prepared for this deployment than any other previous one due to the hard work of the Family Readiness Office volunteers.

When the Wolfpack Marines and sailors stepped off the buses, more than 100 family members flooded toward them, crying with happiness as they hugged their loved ones and took them home.

The first thing Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Flatto did when he got off the bus was grab his pregnant wife and two-year-old daughter in a bear hug. He said he couldn’t wait to eat a home-cooked meal, but most importantly, to spend time with his family.

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