MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment return home Dec. 14, 15, and 16 from a six month unit deployment program to Okinawa, Japan.
The Marines conducted joint training with the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and the Philippine Army.
“The training was conducted to gain cultural awareness and build our friendship with other countries,” said Capt. Stephen Bender, the commanding officer for Golf Co., 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines.
Bender, a Dillsburg, Penn., native said the training was useful because they were able to experience different climates and weather.
“The training was very difficult at first because it was so humid in Okinawa,” said Puentes, the company clerk with Fox Company, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines. “We ran a quarter mile and it looked like you took a shower with your clothes on.”
Puentes said there were many small exercises that seemed to take longer than the bigger exercises.
“The training was mostly focusing on jungle warfare,” said Rafael Puentes, a West Palm Beach, Fla., native. “In both the Philippines and South Korea we did various exercises using rope and rappelling.”
Puentes said the local people of South Korea, Japan and the Philippines were very friendly to the Marines. He said it felt like the Koreans and Filipinos wanted to work with them because the Koreans were interested in learning more about the American culture and the way Americans did things.
“My foreign military counterpart watched me do my job to see the way I did it,” said Sgt. Andrew Coutts, a ground radio repairman with 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines.
Coutts, a Manchester, Mass., native, said they always wanted to trade things such as their unit shirt for his unit shirt, or their rank for his rank.
“They looked up to us in a sense,” said Coutts. “They took us in like family, but nothing is like your own family. I left when my son was 3-weeks old, but it just comes with the job field. Luckily, I was able to receive pictures and videos of my son from my wife while I was gone.”
Bender said that he noticed the Marines were becoming quiet when they got back to their barracks during the deployment. He knew they were becoming home sick just as he was.
“I just really wanted to get (the Marines) back to their own families because we had taken them away to another country for six months of training.”
The “Island Warriors” slowly returned from the 6-month UDP company by company.
Over a three day period, the “Island Warriors” made their way back home.
“It was a successful deployment,” Bender said. “All the Marines should be proud.”