Recon Marines return from Afghanistan

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, Japan-Marines and sailors are greeted by friends and family at the USO on Camp Schwab Dec. 12, after returning from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. The Marines and sailors are with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Photo by LCpl Erik S. Brooks Jr.

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, Japan-Marines and sailors are greeted by friends and family at the USO on Camp Schwab Dec. 12, after returning from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. The Marines and sailors are with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Photo by LCpl Erik S. Brooks Jr.

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, Japan (December 12, 2011)  — Approximately 175 Marines and sailors with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion returned here from a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom Dec. 12.

The Marines, part of 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, were on a seven-month deployment to the Sangin Valley region of Afghanistan.

While deployed, the battalion's mission was to perform counterinsurgency missions around the valley, said Cpl. Kenneth P. Corbin, a reconnaissanceman with the battalion.

"We completed this mission with a constant presence in the (combat) zone," said Corbin. "An unrelenting engagement with the enemy helped stabilize the region."

Some of their missions included human-terrain mapping and movement-to-contact with the enemy.

When conducting human-terrain mapping, the Marines visited villages and collected DNA, and mapped where people were living, Corbin said.

"We found out who the people were and what they did for a living," he said.

By collecting this data, the Marines were able to keep track of the villages surrounding them and the people in them, Corbin said. This helped the Marines monitor Taliban presence in the villages.

Out of all the missions conducted during the deployment, one stuck out in Corbin's mind.

"Operation Stone Pillar sticks out the most for me," Corbin said. "We swept villages, collecting biometric data for counterinsurgency missions."

During the mission, the Marines collected fingerprints and hair samples to identify the people living there and build a database.

"I enjoyed this mission because we got to interact with the people of the village," said Corbin. "The leaders of the village were cooperative and did everything they could to help."

Corbin said the people were happy they were there and exceptionally understanding of the procedures.

The deployment was a long one for the Marines of the battalion.

"We were busy all the time," said Cpl. Mark I. Henderson, a small-arms repairman for the battalion. "Between missions we would get a couple hours of sleep then go back out ready for anything that was thrown at us."

Waiting at the airport for the Marines' return were retired and active-duty Marines on motorcycles. These Marines escorted the returning Marines from Kadena Air Base all the way to Camp Schwab to their awaiting friends and families.

"We are just glad they are back," said John Claffey, a retired master sergeant. Any time a unit comes back from Afghanistan, a group of riders comes and welcomes back the Marines, according to Claffey.

"Everyone has got to come home to something," said Claffey. "It is important to give thanks to the Marines and show we care."

After arriving at Camp Schwab, the Marines turned their weapons in to the armory and headed to the USO where friends and families awaited. There, the Marines shared an emotional welcome home.

"Everyone out there did their part," said Henderson. "I am glad we could help out a country in need and stabilize the region."

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