MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines and sailors from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, deployed to Al Anbar province from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Sept. 23, 2008.
As the Iraqi security forces take primary responsibility for safety and security in the province, the battalion will provide support for the transition.
“We’ll be supporting the Iraqi Police and Iraqi provincial security forces and continuing to improve the security situation in[Al Anbar],” said 2nd Lt. Nicholas White, 2nd Platoon Commander, Golf Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines.
The families of the Marines and sailors were sad to see them go, but happy for them at the same time.
“I’m proud,” said Bryan Billings, father of Lance Cpl. Shane Billings, an M 249 Squad Automatic Weapon gunner with Golf Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines. “This has been a goal his whole life, and we’re supporting him, but at the same time I’m nervous.”
The younger Billings, a Rochester, N.Y., native, said that although his parents are worried, he is eager to go.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m excited,” he said of his first deployment. “Every grunt signs up to go to Iraq, so it’s kind of a motivating thing for me.”
Before they loaded their gear and boarded the buses that would take them to their port of departure, the service members enjoyed food and the company of their loved ones. Those who had friends and family there said their company helped make the departure easier.
“It helps me mentally prepare for deployment, spending the last couple minutes with my girlfriend and with my mom and dad,” said Seaman Steve Mondary, a hospital corpsman with Fox Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines. “There are a lot of emotions.”
Mondary’s father, Mike Mondary, a former Marine and sailor from Rising Sun, Ind., wished his son the best of luck. “Hopefully they’ll have a really good deployment and they’ll come home safe and sound, every last one of them.”
The deployment comes at the culmination of a long series of training exercises to prepare the Marines.
“We’ve done the typical assault ranges here on Camp Lejeune, we went over to Mojave Viper in California, and we worked with the role-players to get a feel for what it’s going to be like in that society and that kind of culture,” said Billings.
White echoed the feeling. “My platoon is ready to go and are looking forward to the job they have ahead of them,” he said.