MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- April usually brings spring showers, but there was nothing but sunshine and open arms for the Marines with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, who returned from their third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, April 2.
The battalion was deployed for seven months to the southwest region of the Al Anbar province of Iraq, where they conducted counterinsurgency and security and stabilization operations.
The unit wasn’t a stranger to the area. The battalion was also deployed there from March to October 2005.
According to the battalion executive officer, Maj. John Polidoro, the battalion had great success in the region, especially this time around.
“We did extremely well across the board,” he explained. “Overall stability in the area greatly improved from day one until we left.”
Polidoro said the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police influence increased as well.
“It went from four active Iraqi Police and a dysfunctional IA battalion to 196 IP and a very capable Iraqi Army operating in the area,” he explained. “We had extreme success at that.”
The U.S. Naval Academy alumnus said the hardest part of the deployment was winning the trust of the local populace. It took a lot of time and patience, but he feels the Marines did an outstanding job at it.
Patience was definitely a virtue for the Marines and sailors’ families and friends waiting for their loved ones from back home in the U.S.
“The hardest part about him being gone was knowing that he was in harms way,” said the mother of Lance Cpl. Michael Christiano, a Marine with the battalion. “But now that he’s home, it feels great; words can’t describe it.”
Although this was Christiano’s first deployment, he felt he was ready for anything that came his way.
“I was prepared for what happened out there,” he said. “We trained hard before we left and I think we did a pretty good job out there.”
Much like his family and many of the Marines in the unit, the young Marine is glad to be home with his family.
“It’s awesome, it was a long time over there, but now it’s good to be home,” Christiano explained.
Companies A, C and a portion of Headquarters and Service Company were the first to return home. The rest of the battalion is scheduled to return throughout the week.