AL ASAD, Iraq -- The Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion have served their time in Iraq. After a grueling seven months in the deserts of the Al Anbar province they are waiting to return home to Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The crews of these light armored vehicles endured improvised explosive devices, mines, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Now, 3rd LAR will pick up where 1st LAR leaves off.
"It's a good feeling to let (3rd LAR) get in and do the job," said Sgt. Rodney W. Skelton, 34, native of Detroit and chief scout with Company A, 1st LAR. "They get to start from scratch, but we passed the knowledge that we had gained on to them so that they can pick up the tempo."
The 3rd LAR can look forward to many weeks out in the field running vehicle check points, patrolling through towns and along roads and conducting fire missions.
"It was like hell sometimes," said Lance Cpl. Darren M. D'Ambrogi, a mortar man with Company A, 1st LAR. "Sometimes there would be days when you just sat out in the sun soaking in your own sweat."
During their time in Iraq, 3rd LAR will face many challenges, to include boredom. However, the Marines will find the excitement of raids and patrols will get their heart pumping.
"There are days where it can be boring, and there are days when you are on patrols," said Lance Cpl. Mikel C. Herbert, a mortar man with Company A, 1st LAR. "It's fun when we get to do a fire mission."
However, every challenge 1st LAR Marines faced helped build a better future for Iraq.
"I think we did a lot of good for these people," said Herbert, 21, of New Oxford, Pa.
Aside from running missions and helping the Iraqi people, the time spent in the desert allowed the Marines to bond and do some self-discovery.
"The best times out here were being around the Marines and the people in your crew," said Herbert. "You get real close with the people that you work with when you're out in the field for three to four weeks at a time."
"You get a lot of time to reflect. Especially being in the desert, it gives you lots of time to think about what you are made of and who you are," said Lance Cpl. Richard P. Zappella, a driver with Company A, 1st LAR.
"At times, it was kind of weird. We moved around a lot, it was like we didn't really have a home," said D'Ambrogi.
The feeling of homelessness will soon fade for these Marines as they head home.
"I can't wait to go home, it's been too long," said D'Ambrogi, 22, from Santa Rosa, Calif.