New Marine deployment to Iraq begins
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
KANE'OHE BAY — A new wave of Iraq deployments has begun for Hawai'i-based troops.
And a new round of intense worry by spouses, family and friends comes with it.
About 60 Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment who left yesterday for the Haditha area of Iraq represent the advance party for about 900 who follow in several weeks.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 on Monday will begin loading up some of its CH-53D Sea Stallions onto cargo craft for the base's first full squadron deployment to Iraq, officials said. The unit has nearly a dozen Sea Stallions.
About 180 squadron members are expected to make the trip.
Schofield Barracks, meanwhile, continues to train up for the summer deployment to northern Iraq of 7,000 soldiers and war duty for 90 to 100 of its helicopters and their crews.
The fear of what may come was visible behind the 3/3 Marines' headquarters yesterday, where teary-eyed Trista Rhyne, four months pregnant with twins, hugged her 6-foot-4 husband, Lance Cpl. Timothy Rhyne, and didn't want to let go.
"I just want him to go and do his time and come back as soon as possible," she said. "I try not to think about it too much. I think all of us try not to think about it, because I don't think we would make it."
Timothy Rhyne, 20, who's already been to Afghanistan once, will miss the birth of his first — and second — child on the deployment, expected to last seven to eight months. "It's pretty hard," he said. "I really want to see the birth of my children, but she's going to have plenty of support (from family)."
The Marines said goodbye to wives, girlfriends and children yesterday and boarded a white bus for transport to the chartered jetliner that would transport them on the initial leg of their long journey.
Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, is part of an area that includes Barwanah and Haqlaniyah and is called the "Triad."
Last Aug. 3, 14 Marine Reservists were killed when an enormous roadside bomb hit their 25-ton amphibious assault vehicle outside Haditha.
The improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have become more dangerous, said 3/3 commander Lt. Col. Norm Cooling.
"The way they are assembled, how they are emplaced, is very sophisticated," Cooling said. "Clearly, a lot of these guys know what they are doing. Many (others) don't know what they are doing and are just hired guys just wanting to make a dollar."
2006 has been called a make-or-break year for the U.S. in Iraq with growing domestic pressure to withdraw troops and the hope to largely turn over security responsibility to Iraqi forces.
Cooling agrees it is a pivotal year.
"Absolutely," he said. "I can tell you this: They are not just saying that. Everything that they have told us to do is consistent with that. There's no question that the No. 1 mission that we've been tasked with is to train the Iraqi Army and security forces that are operating already in our area of responsibility to the point that when we start looking to leave seven months to eight months from now, they are largely able to do everything."
Marines from Kane'ohe Bay have reached the point where they are on repeat combat deployments. The 3rd Battalion, known as "America's Battalion," returned from Afghanistan in June. Two of the Hawai'i Marines died there in a firefight.
The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines from Kane'ohe Bay fought in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November, 2004. They lost 46 Marines on the deployment.
On Monday, 107 Marines and sailors with the 3rd Radio Battalion will return home after completing a nine-month deployment to Iraq. Fifteen of the Marines were on their third deployment to Iraq, and 57 were on their second deployment.
In Afghanistan, the Marines faced rugged mountains and poor roads. In Iraq, it will be flat terrain and urban environments.
"It will be nice not to be hiking around as much. But again, driving more on the roads, the more chance there is of IEDs," 1st Lt. Mike Berentson, 26, of Burlington, Wash., said yesterday as he prepared to leave for Iraq with the 3/3 advance party.
Cpl. Tyler Corbaley, 22, from Las Vegas, said it's his last deployment because he's getting out.
"I just want to take this one full stride, accomplish as much as I can, so I can feel I got the most out of my four years in the Marine Corps," he said.
Asked when he's getting out, his wife, Patricia, piped up, "Dec. 12."
"Marked on every calendar we've got, I guess," she added.
Patricia Corbaley, 21, said going to Afghanistan with 3/3 "was what he wanted to do. Same with (Iraq). I know he's good at his job. I'm going to miss him, obviously."
She said she's looking forward to his getting out of the Corps "so we can move on with our lives. Hopefully, the war will be over."
The couple went to Ala Moana Center on Thursday and came away with teddy bears that will remind them of each other while Tyler is gone. He stood in formation yesterday with a 9 mm pistol on one side of his hip and holding the beige bear with a white shirt and blue jean skirt on the other.
Pfc. Bryan Donaldson, 21, from Ellijay, Ga., said he's not sure what to expect in Iraq. He, too, was in Afghanistan with 3/3, like more than half of the other Marines in the advance party for Iraq.
"Just everything in general, what can happen in a single day (is uncertain)," he said. "Attacks, accidents. Don't really know what to expect till you get over there."
Sgt. David Washington, 22, a cook with 3/3 from Cleveland, was pretty eager to get on the bus for the first of several flights that will take him to Iraq.
"Can't wait. Do the job, come back home," he said. "It's the big dance. I've been training for it (it seems) all my life."
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.