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Island Warriors arrive in Iraq, receive visit from RCT commander

12 Feb 2008 | Cpl. Chadwick deBree

Marines and sailors assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, arrived this week for a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 Upon arriving in Iraq, the Island Warriors received a reception from Col. Lewis A. Craparotta, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 1, which the battalion is assigned to while in Iraq.

 Before Craparotta spoke to the Marines and sailors, Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, commanding officer, 2/3, and Sgt. Maj. Patrick A. Wilkinson, sergeant major, 2/3, spoke to the battalion one last time before each company took control of their respective areas of operation.

 Galeai told the Island Warriors their mission while in Iraq was to help transfer power of the region back to the Iraqis.

 “We’re here to help them so they can eventually control their province,” Galeai told the Island Warriors. “Whether or not that happens during our seven month watch is still to be determined, but while you’re here, you should be waking up and asking yourself ‘how can I make things better?”

 “This is a thinking battalion, this is a well trained battalion,” he continued. “You’ve worked very hard to get to this point. You have to use your minds and be committed. When we assume the responsibility for this area, you have to set the tone and set the standard, and 2/3’s standards are pretty high.”

 Wilkinson echoed Galeai’s words, telling the battalion that they have to do what they know is right. He also told the veteran Island Warriors that the situation is different than the last time 2/3 deployed to Iraq.

 “You’re squad leaders, first sergeants and myself have already been outside the wire and it’s a whole different beast out there than the last time we were here,” Wilkinson said.

 “You need to be disciplined. You need to be professional, but you still need to be aggressive. You can’t get comfortable. Remember what you are and the reputation you have. Reputations just don’t happen like that. There’s been a whole lot of sweating, bleeding and dying to build your rep.”

 Wilkinson also told the Marines that they may begin to get tired during their deployment, but that means they just have to push themselves harder to be successful.

 “Your body will get used to it and your mind will get used to it,” he said. “Continue to conduct business like you have up to this point and we’re good, we’re golden.”

 After Wilkinson and Galeai finished talking to their Marines and sailors, Craparotta told the battalion about the situation in their area of operation.

 “The battle space has changed for the better,” Craparotta said. “There’s been more of a reliance on the Iraqi forces. There are Iraqi forces out there that do want to take the initiative to look after their people.”

 Craparotta also told the Marines not to hesitate to tell him how things are going during their missions.

 “I’ll be out there checking your positions,” he said. “Tell me what’s going on and I’ll listen to you. You are the guys who are doing the work everyday and the guys I want to talk to. I’m going to count on you to be honest with me.”

 The Island Warriors will take control of the area from the Marines of America’s Battalion, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.