Local Marine Reserves prepare for duty

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   GRAY -- Local Marine Reserves, including some from Carter County, were activated on Monday and are preparing to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
   The approximately 180 members of Company L, 3rd Battalion of the 24th Marine Regiment based in Gray will deploy from their home base to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for additional training before they depart for an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, according to Maj. Pete Gill.
   No official departure date from Gray for Camp Pendleton has been released, Gill said, but he estimates deployment will probably occur in about 16 days.
   Members of the company were put on alert Nov. 8, 2003 and were mobilized on Dec. 24.
   The company, which is one of five companies in the 3rd Battalion, is a Marine Infantry unit.
   According to Gill, the company's activation orders are for a period of 12 months but could be extended for an additional 12 months if the Marine Corps feels that it is necessary. "We will help the nation in any opportunity," Gill said.
   The time the company spends at its home base and then later at Camp Pendleton before deploying overseas will be used to make sure the Marines are prepared physically and mentally to enter combat and to guarantee that any dependents they leave behind are fully aware of the benefits available to them as dependents of active military personnel.
   According to Gill, the morale of the company is high as they prepare for deployment. "Not only can they not wait to go, we've had numerous calls from former Marines who are no longer affiliated with this unit wanting to get back in just to go," Gill said. "If they could pack up and go tomorrow they would."
   The last time that Lima Company was called to active duty was during Operation Desert Storm. According to Gill, there is one noticeable difference in the troops' deployment this time compared to Desert Storm. "I feel they are more ready," he said. "The last time they were called up it had been such a long time since the Reserves had been called. Since Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Reserves have been on the edge."