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Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

3/4 engineers bring Tennessee pride, tradition to Fallujah

24 May 2005 | Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

As the Tennessee state colors are uncased at the camp here, May 15, the engineers of 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, a reserve unit based out of Knoxville, Tenn., carried on a more than 40-year-old tradition. The aged flag, first displayed in the jungles of Vietnam, has been carried to every major U.S. conflict since its original uncasing in the 1960’s. The engineer’s platoon commander received the flag shortly before the platoon departed for Iraq in March but being a resident of Virginia, passed the state colors to the platoon gunnery sergeant. “I was very proud to receive the flag,” said Gunnery Sgt. Douglas I. Rines, 35-year-old platoon gunnery sergeant for 3rd Platoon, “We uncase it to display the pride of the Tennessee Marines serving in this war.” The long-standing tradition requires the engineers to uncase the state colors for one full day, and then put it away to prevent damage to the worn flag. For more than 40 years, the engineers of Delta Co. have been the only unit to carry these colors into a combat area, according to Rines, a resident of Morristown, Tenn. On May 15, the engineers with 3rd platoon, currently attached to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-8, showed their pride by displaying the colors at “The Castle,” the engineers work area aboard the camp. “We were upholding an age-old tradition of the ‘Volunteer State,’” said Sgt. Brian G. Mullins, a 30-year-old squad leader with 3rd Platoon. “That flag represents family, heritage and pride in where we come from.” The state colors currently carried here have seen three wars and been uncased in nine different countries since its donation. Over the years, the flag has fallen victim to the sun and weather, fading nearly all of the color on one side. Upon the platoon’s return to Tennessee, they hope to retire the aged flag and carry on with a new one, according to Rines. “We hope the historical society will encase the flag for protection and the governor will donate a new flag for future deployments,” Rines said. With a new flag, the unit hopes to carry on the tradition in the same manner as before, according to Rines. The platoon is also going one step further to display their state pride, by adding an additional flag to the tradition. Alongside the state colors, the bright orange flag of the University of Tennessee will be displayed wherever the platoon goes. The autographed flag, currently signed by the 2004 Volunteer Football Team, will be updated and displayed on all Delta Co. deployments in the future, according to Rines. “We’ve got a few [University of Tennessee] graduates in the platoon, and it’s just another way to show our pride in being from Tennessee,” said Mullins, a native of Knoxville, Tenn.