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About 500 Marines left before dawn Friday on a seven-month deployment to Iraq

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  • About 500 Marines left before dawn Friday on a seven-month deployment to Iraq

    June 18, 2004

    Unit deploys to Iraq

    By Seth Hettena
    Associated Press

    CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — About 500 Marines left before dawn Friday on a seven-month deployment to Iraq, arriving as the violence-torn nation prepares for a handover to a civilian government.
    The Marines, many of whom took part in last year’s invasion, hugged loved ones in the darkness of the San Diego County base.

    “It’s never easy, no matter how many times you’ve done it, to say goodbye,” said 1st Lt. Michael Beames, 28.

    The troops, from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, boarded 10 buses and headed to March Air Force Base in neighboring Riverside County to be flown overseas on chartered planes. They were to head to Kuwait and then Iraq as part of a scheduled troop rotation.

    A second large-scale rotation of Marines is expected to begin in early fall.

    The unit being deployed will join about 19,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station that have been operating in Iraq’s Anbar Providence since March.

    The infantry unit, which fought last year in Iraq, will replace another battalion-sized unit.

    The deployment comes as leaders of the U.S. occupation prepared to turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30.

    Several Marines said they did not know how the handover would affect their mission.

    “We have, actually, no clue how it’s going to work,” said Staff Sgt. Roy D. Whitener, 39.
    Semper Fidelis

    George T. Curtis