MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Tenth Marine Regiment headquarters wasn’t going to let 5th Battalion, 10th Marines leave without one last hurrah.
Tenth Marines gathered nearly 3,000 Marines and sailors and kicked off a motivational run down River Road aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 16, one last time with 5th Bn., 10th Marines in its ranks.
The battalion will deactivate on or about June 1, by direction of the Headquarters Marine Corps Force Structure Review Group’s guidance. The review group, which conducted the study in 2010 and finished March 2011, was created due to the Department of Defense budget cuts, which were triggered when the “Super Committee” failed to compromise on ways to reduce the nation’s massive debt.
The FSR calls for a myriad of cuts across the Marine Corps which will bring the Marine Corps’ active-duty forces from 202,000 to 186,800. The study calls for two artillery battalions to be cut, which will also include 3rd Bn., 10th Marines, around the same time next year after the battalion returns from its deployment to Afghanistan next year.
Col. Brad Hall, 10th Marines’ commanding officer and Florida native, gathered the Marines in a horseshoe formation across the regiment’s headquarters on River Road and N Street after the run. The sergeants major formed their battalions and Hall took the microphone.
“Saint Barbara shed a tear for us yesterday,” said Hall, referencing the patroness of artillerymen, as he addressed the regiment of Marines. “Look to your right,” Hall told his Marines, “(5th Bn., 10th Marines) will leave us in a couple months. They’ve done a remarkable job and they have held their heads up high. They will remain (5th Bn., 10th Marines) until their colors are furled. Today, when you go about your business, think about them.”
Once it was decided how the defense cuts were going to be implemented, it only seemed fitting 5th Bn., 10th Marines would eventually go away. The battalion is the main artillery reinforcement for 8th Marine Regiment; however, the infantry regiment is going away as well, which their direct fire support, 3rd Bn., 10th Marines, will follow suit.
Sergeant Major David J. Zhorne, the 10th Marines sergeant major and a Belle Plaine, Iowa native, said deactivating and reactivating units is nothing new and he has seen some throughout his career. As for the artillery battalion, he said the field got so good, it eventually sold itself out.
“Back in my artillery days, we didn’t have the technology that we have today to get the mission accomplished,” said Zhorne. “Now, we can hit our targets with 100 percent accuracy. There isn’t as much of a need for artillery like there used to be.”
“(The Force Structure Group) thought this is where they could take a risk,” added Hall.
Capt. Christopher Rhinehart, the battalion’s executive officer and Gastonia, N.C. native, said words can’t describe the battalion’s accomplishments. Rhinehart said the battalion led the way with its corporals' course and many wins during the inter-regimental Top Gun competition held at Fort Bragg, N.C., to cite a few examples.
“Our CO’s philosophy is that he will not send a Marine or sailor to another unit who is not ready and without a viable billet. This battalion takes care of its Marines and sailors,” said Rhinehart. “We are still training to keep these guys proficient. We are making sure that they are still getting the training they need. Who knows, we could get a call to go somewhere before the deactivation. We do standard-based training, which is why this battalion is awesome.”
Rhinehart does, on the flip side, believe the Force Structure Group will give artillery the ability to conduct split-battery operations. Split battery simply means dispersed, instead of assembled in mass fire missions. This will allow, for example, three platoons with two howitzers each to support maneuvering infantry units for the duration of deployments.
“Split-battery operations will be manageable as we grow the batteries,” said Rhinehart. “Now, we are sending Marines and sailors to other units to fill in the gaps. This will allow us to conduct these types of missions.”
Though Marines are constantly being reassigned to different units or getting out of the Marine Corps, Rhinehart and at least 150 remaining Marines will deploy to Africa this summer with Africa Partnership Station 2012.
The APS is part of an ongoing international effort to assist African nations to improve maritime safety and security. The security cooperation initiative, now in its fifth year, is aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa, according to the U.S. Africa Command web site.
Fifth Battalion, 10th Marines, at the time APS kicks off its deployment, will officially be deactivated, but Rhinehart feels a piece of mind knowing he’ll have his Marines right there with him.
“We will always be (5th Battalion, 10th Marines) by heart,” said Rhinehart.