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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

K-Bay Marines off to war

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

About 1,000 Kane'ohe Bay Marines attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa received orders yesterday for duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

About 900 Marines and sailors with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment — as well as six CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters with Heavy Marine Helicopter squadron 463 and approximately 70 Marines from the squadron — are expected to deploy soon to the region with the 31st MEU.

Chuck Little, a spokesman for Marine Forces Pacific at Camp Smith, only would say that the Marines were ordered to the Central Command area of responsibility. For the Kane'ohe Bay base, the action represents the start of what could be more such deployments to come.

"This will be the largest deployment of Hawai'i-based Marines to date to the Central Command area" in support of the war on terrorism, Little said.

Nearly 1,000 other Hawai'i Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines (3/3) are heading to the California desert this month for live-fire exercises ahead of possible deployment.

During Rim of the Pacific naval exercises last month, 3/3 commander Lt. Col. Norm Cooling said the chances were real of going to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., is leaving Afghanistan after fighting there since late March.

As part of regular seven-month rotations to Okinawa, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines recently changed places with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

The Marine deployment comes with about 10,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers on yearlong deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and about 2,000 Hawai'i Army National Guard soldiers reporting two days ago for 18 months of active duty, including a year in Iraq.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.