( I apologize for the formatting of this post - For some reason, the webpage has not been holding the normal paragraphing - This was an important story to share...)
SEMPER FI to the 3/5 and our condolences for the losses suffered, prayers for all who suffered the loss of family & friends along with hopes of speedy recovery for those wounded defending the citizens of Afghanistan from the Taliban.
Best Wishes to the 1/23 in taking on a tough mission. You have the thanks of a grateful nation and this Seabee who shared time at Camp Leatherneck with these brave men & women.
I do not consider myself as a Hero, but I have been in the company of Heroes in Afghanistan and Iraq....the 3/5 are American Heroes and I was grateful to have shared time with them in both locations.
Marine unit that suffered most casualties coming home Camp Pendleton Unit scaling back role in Afghanistan
By MARK WALKER - firstname.lastname@example.org
North County Times The Californian Thursday, March 24, 2011 The Camp Pendleton unit that has seen more troops killed and wounded in action than any other Marine Corps unit in the 10-year-old Afghan war is coming home. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment will return in a couple of weeks ahead of a wave of other units from the base's I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The lead role in Afghanistan is being taken over by the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A transfer of command ceremony is set for Saturday at Camp Leatherneck, the main Marine base in the southern Helmand province where most Marines are assigned. At that ceremony, Camp Pendleton Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who has overseen the fighting by the 20,000 Marines in Afghanistan for the last year, will relinquish that command and return home.
The number of locally based troops at war in the south-central Asian nation will fall from slightly more than 10,000 to about 7,000 by the end of spring and down to about 2,000 by midsummer, said 2nd Lt. Joanna Cappeto, a Camp Pendleton spokeswoman.
Among the most anticipated homecomings is the return of the battered 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, whose nickname is the "Dark Horse Battalion." The approximately 950-member infantry unit was engaged in heavy fighting in the Sangin District of the Helmand province from the time it arrived there at the end of the summer until recent weeks.
The region was rife with Taliban insurgents, who used the district as a haven for illicit drug trafficking and manufacturing roadside bombs. In its aggressive pursuit of the insurgents, the battalion saw 25 of its members killed in action, most of them from the bombs that are the weapon responsible for most U.S. and NATO troop casualties.
More than 150 battalion troops were wounded, including more than a dozen who had single- or multiple-limb amputations. One of the men wounded in that fashion was Oceanside resident Lt. Cameron West, a platoon leader who lost a leg and suffered other injuries in an Oct. 15 blast while leading a patrol less than three weeks after arriving in Afghanistan. West, who continues to undergo therapy at Naval Medical Center San Diego, said Tuesday that he's eager to see the battalion get back to Camp Pendleton. "I've been waiting for the last six months," West said. "These are my guys and I can't wait to see them."
When the battalion gets back, commanders have ordered that it be kept as intact as possible for three months to allow its troops to decompress from the rigors of war and violence they experienced. "We won't transfer anybody until at least 90 days after they come," said Col. Willy Buhl, regimental commander. "We are keeping people together during that critical decompression time to enable getting them the education and the observation and natural decompression that occurs when you are with your buddies. They are the only ones who can truly understand what they've been through."
The battalion also will be closely monitored by mental health specialists under the direction of Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego. The specialists will work with the troops and their families as a part of an effort to stave off post-traumatic stress disorder and destructive behaviors. "We're trying to see how we can take (post-combat care) to the next level of assistance after 10 years of war," was how Buhl termed the effort during a recent conversation at Camp Pendleton.
Bill Rider, president of the Oceanside-based American Combat Veterans of War that counsels troops in distress, said the post-deployment care is a wise move. "Maintaining unit cohesion after war is good for the troops because it will allow them to talk to their brother warriors and work things out," he said. "It's not a panacea that will fix everything, but it's a good start." Rider said the battalion will need to confront the carnage it suffered. "They are going to have to work out in their own minds all that happened and all the little hobgoblins that come along, such as 'Why did I survive when all the others didn't?'" he said.
The 25 battalion deaths are among 61 combat fatalities for Camp Pendleton troops since March 1, 2010, according to records kept by the North County Times based on Department of Defense casualty releases. As the 3/5 battalion comes home, troops from Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment have been deploying to Afghanistan, where a traditional lull in fighting during the winter months is ending. Other major Camp Pendleton units heading out include Combat Logistics Battalion 7 and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment