1,000 Marines return from Iraq


POSTED: Thursday, March 05, 2009

More than 1,000 Marines returned to Hawaii from Iraq this week, while an additional 2,000 will leave the Kaneohe base for Afghanistan and Iraq in the next two months.

;[Preview]  Marines Return Home After Tour In Iraq

Excited family and friends greeted hundreds of marines after month of separation.

Watch  ]


For many fathers, like Lance Cpl. Louis Alatriste, yesterday was the first time they saw their newborn babies.

Five-month-old Louis Jr. was born while his father was serving his second combat tour in Kamah, between Fallujah and Baghdad, with the “;Lava Dogs”; of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. It was unit's third combat deployment to Iraq.

Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, are now preparing to deploy to Afghanistan within two months, while another 1,000 Marines from the 3rd Battalion will leave for Iraq within a month. The 3rd Battalion will be replacing the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, in al Asad.

Many of the returning Marines, like Alatriste, were on their second combat tour.

“;It was calmer,”; said Alatriste, who enlisted in the Marine Corps 3 1/2 years ago. “;It was way better ... definitely an improvement.”;

Cpl. Shawn Ogata, a Kauai High School graduate, was in Haditha from February 2007 for seven months.

This time, he was assigned to Baharia, where he things were “;pretty relaxed.”;

Lt. Col. Andy Milburn, who commands the 1st Battalion, said he is “;not disappointed”; that this was his third and final deployment to Iraq since the Pentagon intends to divert more forces to Afghanistan.

“;It was much, much more calmer than my previous two times,”; said Milburn, who was part of the Marine invasion force in 2003 and participated in the battle for Fallujah a year later.

“;When we left Iraq,”; said Milburn, “;its security forces were ready to take over. It's been six years since I first went to Iraq, and we are leaving on a good note.”;

The Lava Dogs lost one Marine during this deployment, which began in August.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Reilly Jr., 19, of London, Ky., was killed Dec. 21. Two other Kaneohe Marines from the 1st Battalion were wounded in combat.

“;By comparison, two or three years ago,”; Milburn noted, “;we were suffering 10 to 12 KIAs (killed in action) during each deployment.”;

During the 1st Battalion's first deployment to Iraq in 2004, it lost 42 Marines and two Navy corpsmen.

By now, Marines deploying to Iraq are better trained to spot homemade bombs and are driving better-armored vehicles as well as wearing better personal body armor, Milburn added.

Although Milburn does not know where he will be sent to next, he acknowledged that the fight will now be in Afghanistan.

“;It's different,”; Milburn acknowledged. “;The fight is different but there are some consistencies. ... The basics of counterinsurgency are not different.”;