In 1980, the Marine Corps identified a requirement to enhance the mobility and firepower of the units tasked with rapid deployment responsibilities. A family of six Light Armored Vehicles was determined to be the means of meeting this requirement.
On 27 September 1982, a production contract for the LAV-25 and a companion development contract for five other LAV configurations (Maintenance/Recovery, Logistics, Mortar, Anti-Tank, and Command and Control) were awarded to General Motors of Canada. The LAV family of vehicles was highly mobile and able to move on land and water, therefore providing a fighting capability previously unrealized.
The 3d Light Armored Vehicle Battalion originally began as Company A (Reinforced), 1st Light Armored Vehicle Battalion in May 1983, and began receiving LAVs in April of 1984. Company A, 1st Light Armored Vehicle Battalion became Company A, 3d Light Armored Vehicle Battalion in late 1985. The 3d Light Armored Vehicle Battalion, 27th Marines, 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade was activated on 11 September 1986. The battalion was re-designated as the 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion on 1 October 1988 and subsequently relocated to Okinawa, Japan in February 1989.
The battalion returned to Twentynine Palms on 18 July 1991 and was assigned to Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 7. A detachment from the battalion deployed to Saudi Arabia on 16 August 1990 in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD, as part of the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Task Force Lima. Later, the battalion conducted screening and deception operations as part of Task Force Shepherd, the forward unit of the First Marine Division. On 25 January 1991, Company B saw combat in the first ground offensive action of the war by participating in an artillery raid with 5th Battalion, 11th Marines. On the night of 29 January 1991, during the battle of Umm Hjul, Company D was the primary unit to turn back a major Iraqi attack. Once the ground war commenced, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion again found itself at the forefront of the action. While assigned to the First Marine Division Command Post on the second day of the ground war, Company B repelled an Iraqi counterattack on the Division's Command Post. Additionally, Company D provided a mobile screen for Task Force Ripper, the leading unit for the Division. On the third day of the ground offensive, Task Force Shepherd was the first coalition force to enter Kuwait City where it liberated the Kuwait International Airport from Iraqi occupation.
In March of 1991, the 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion detachment returned to Twentynine Palms, California. While the rest of the battalion was deterring Iraqi aggression, Company A had been assigned to Marine Air Ground Task Force 4-90 in the Far East with a mission to conduct security patrols. When a large earthquake hit the Philippine Islands, Company A participated in relief efforts. In April of 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted and once again, Company A was called upon to provide security against looters as well as to assist in the clean up efforts. During this deployment, Company A also participated in Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand and Exercise Team Spirit in Korea. Company A returned to Twentynine Palms on 7 August 1991 after completing an arduous 15-month deployment.
From December 1992 to April 1993, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion deployed Company B and Company C along with the forward command group and forward logistics support for Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia. The mission consisted of convoy escorts which delivered over 4,000 metric tons of grain to outlying areas. Additionally, During this relief operation, the battalion also conducted over 400 day and night security patrols and was involved in numerous combined patrols and security checkpoints with other United Nations units.
On 1 March 1994, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion was re-designated as 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion. Throughout 1994, the battalion participated in counter-drug operations in support of Joint Task Force 6 in Arizona. In 1995, the battalion had one platoon from Company A participate in Operation UNITED SHIELD: the retrograde of United Nations forces from Somalia.
It was during the early 1990s that the battalion’s nickname and collective call sign became “WOLFPACK.” From the mid-1990s into early 2000, the battalion was recognized as the premier LAR unit and it tested many of the Marine Corps’ innovative operational concepts. Participating in large, complex combined arms and maneuver exercises throughout Southern California, the battalion validated the combat effectiveness and agility of LAR. 3d LAR Battalion also continued to support the 1st Marine Division’s Unit Deployment Program (UDP) by rotating an LAR company to Okinawa, Japan every six months.
In late January through February 2003, the battalion, minus Company C who was in the UDP, deployed with the First Marine Division to Kuwait in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Upon arrival, the battalion attached Company B, 4th LAR Battalion, which was subsequently re-designated as Company E. On 21 March, 3d LAR Battalion and its attachments kicked off Operation IRAQI FREEDOM by attacking into the Rumaylah oil fields of southern Iraq. The battalion then cleared in zone, seized the Safwan Airfield, and secured artillery positions north of the battalion's battle space. The WOLFPACK, along with 1st LAR Battalion, led the Division's rapid attack north by passing through Task Force Tarawa just 56 hours after attacking into Iraq, then crossing the Euphrates River and continuing the attack north along Highway 1.
On 23 March 2003, while advancing hundreds of kilometers in front of the Division to seize a bridge over the Tigris River, the battalion uncovered a night ambush by dozens of Iraqi irregular forces known as the Fedeyeen. This was the first major and only battalion-level engagement of the war which resulted in several dozen enemy killed in action and the destruction of Iraqi armor forces attempting to maneuver south against the Division.
From the afternoon of 24 March until 1 April, the battalion was attached to RCT-5. On 25 March, the battalion’s advance north was temporarily halted due to “The Mother of All Sandstorms’” which reduced visibility throughout Southern Iraq to less than a few feet during daylight and to nothing during hours of darkness. Once the sandstorm lifted on 26 March, the battalion continued its advance north on Highway 1 until the entire Division was temporarily halted west of Ad Diwaniyah in order to allow for supplies and logistics to catch up to the lead units.
From 24 through 31 March, all four companies continued to participate in company-level engagements, both while working directly for the battalion and while attached temporarily to other battalions.
On 31 March, the battalion attacked north as part of RCT-5 and secured the northern portion of the Hantush Airfield. As the battalion continued its advance north, Company D was attached to RCT-7 on 29 March. They remained attached until 6 April, where they led RCT-7’s attack to seize the Salman Pak peninsula. As the Division continued its attack north, the battalion was assigned to conduct a moving flank screen north of Highway 6. As the Division attacked into Baghdad, the battalion screened the area east of the city to prevent enemy forces from reinforcing, as RCTs 1, 5, and 7 stormed across the Diyala River.
On 10 April, the battalion was tasked to provide a headquarters and two companies to Task Force Tripoli. This ad-hoc task force comprised of elements of 1st, 2nd and 3d LAR Battalions, as well as G/2/23 and the TOW Plt from 1st Tank Bn attacked north toward Tikrit. The remainder of Task Force WOLFPACK, Companies B, E, and one half of H&S Company, as well as the Rear Command Post element, remained outside Baghdad conducting stabilization operations while attached to 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion. In its advance north towards Tikrit, the elements of the battalion attached to Task Force Tripoli made national headlines in the town of Samarra. On 13 April 2003, Marines from Company D rescued 7 American servicemen and women who had been taken prisoner earlier in the conflict. The rescued prisoners included two Army helicopter pilots and Shoshanna Johnson, a soldier from the same unit as Jessica Lynch. An image from this moment is captured in the “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM” mural on a building in 29 Palms. After this rescue, the battalion continued north to Tikrit where it attacked into the city the same day, then blocked south of it and cleared several former palaces and residences of Saddam Hussein and other prominent Ba’ath party members.
On 21 April, the battalion reformed in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq. Shortly thereafter, the battalion was again tasked to provide forces to Task Force Tripoli, this time moving south to the Saudi Arabian border as part of a reconnaissance in force mission in an area that had not seen US forces or witnessed combat operations since the war commenced. Within a week of returning to Ad Diwaniyah, the battalion again provided a show of force which demonstrated the speed and mobility of the LAV. This time the battalion moved north and east to the Iranian border and back south through several towns that had rarely seen a Coalition presence in order to develop an assessment of the area as the Division prepared to take control of an expanded area of operations. Shortly after completing this final mission, the battalion retrograded to Kuwait in preparation for redeployment to the United States. By mid-June 2003, the entire battalion had redeployed to Twentynine Palms, with the remainder of the Division following in September.
In November of 2003, the battalion was given a warning order to prepare to redeploy to Iraq in August 2004 in order to participate in the Division’s resumption of support and stability operations in the Al Anbar province. In preparation for this deployment, the battalion executed platoon, company and battalion-level training which culminated with a two-week deployment to the US Army’s National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, CA in conjunction with a US Army brigade training exercise. In early August of 2004, the battalion deployed the advance party to Kuwait with the remainder of the battalion arriving in Kuwait during September 2004. In September, 3d LAR conducted a relief in place (RIP) with 1st LAR Battalion. Upon arrival at Camp Korean Village, the battalion attached Battery S, 5/10 as a provisional infantry company as well as Company A, 1/23, a reserve infantry company out of Houston, TX. The battalion's higher headquarters was RCT-7. During the early part of the deployment, Company D operated out of Al Qaim, north of the Euphrates River and along the Syrian border, while the remainder of the battalion operated out of Camp Korean Village.
In late October 2004, the battalion was tasked to provide a headquarters element and one LAR company to RCT-1 in support of the Division's effort to retake the city of Fallujah. This mission forced the creation of two separate battalion task forces. Task Force WOLFPACK, comprised of the battalion command element, part of Headquarters and Service Company, and Company C (reinforced) moved to Habbiniyah and attached Company B/1/23, C/1-9 IN, Small Craft Company, 36 Commando/ISOF Brigade, the Scout Sniper Platoon from BLT1/4, and an Interim Iraqi Security Force Platoon. Task Force Naha, consisting of H&S Company (-), Company A (-)/ 3d LAR, A/1/23, and S/5/10 remained at Camp Korean Village and was later reinforced with a detachment of four CH-46s from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 265. Task Force Naha continued to execute the same enduring tasks that Task Force WOLFPACK had executed prior to its departure.
Beginning on 7 November 2004, Task Force WOLFPACK participated in Operation AL FAJR (Phantom Fury), the Division’s operation to retake Fallujah. Task Force WOLFPACK’s mission was to attack to seize three key objectives on the Fallujah Peninsula—-the North and South Bridges and the Fallujah Hospital. Both bridges spanned the Euphrates River and connected the peninsula to the city of Al Fallujah. Across these bridges, insurgents could either reinforce efforts in the city or withdraw onto the peninsula. Coalition forces suspected that the insurgents used the hospital as a strong point or received medical care at the facility. At 1900 on 7 November 2004, Task Force WOLFPACK attacked north onto the peninsula and seized all three battalion objectives. During this time, Company D was attached to 1st Battalion, 23d Marines and operated near the cities of Hit and Haditha securing the main supply routes and patrolling known insurgent areas. Task Force Naha continued securing the theater-level supply routes in its area of operations while conducting offensive operations against the insurgents in and around Ar Rutbah. They also maintained security and enforced customs regulations at two of the border crossing points located in Trebil and Waleed, Iraq.
In late November 2004, Task Force WOLFPACK departed the Fallujah peninsula and was attached to the US Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2BCT), 1st Infantry Division. Task Force WOLFPACK quickly conducted a re-arm/re-fit operation in Ar Ramadi and then participated in several operations to capture Division and Brigade-level high value individuals. In December, Task Force WOLFPACK began conducting route security operations in the Fallujah-Ar Ramadi corridor. In early 2005, both Task Force Naha and Task Force WOLFPACK supported the 2005 Iraqi National and Provincial Elections. During this period, Task Force Naha was reinforced with Company C, 1/3, and significant Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (SeaBee) assets. Task Force Naha utilized these new attachments to construct, secure, and operate four separate polling stations in conjunction with Iraqi security forces and the International Electoral Commission.
At the end of February 2005, Task Force WOLFPACK reattached to RCT-7 and conducted offensive operations along the Euphrates River in vicinity of the cities of Hit and Haditha as part of Operation RIVER BLITZ. When these operations were completed in early March, Task Force WOLFPACK returned to Camp Korean Village where the battalion reformed and subsequently conducted a RIP with 2d LAR Battalion. During April of 2005, the battalion redeployed to Twentynine Palms, CA.
In May 2005, 3d LAR was given a warning order to prepare two line companies and Headquarters and Service Company to deploy in support of OIF 05-07.1. Once again the battalion quickly re-organized, while still supporting the UDP rotation to Okinawa with Companies B and C. Pre-deployment training consisted of individual, crew, platoon and company-level training at the Army’s NTC in Fort Irwin, CA during September and October 2005 and a battalion deployment to Stu Segall’s Strategic Operations Studios near Miramar, CA in January of 2006.
In March of 2006, the battalion deployed in support of OIF 05-07.1 and subsequently became Task Force WOLFPACK by attaching C/1/10 as a provisional infantry company, one HET detachment and one CAG detachment. Immediately upon arrival, Task Force WOLFPACK detached Company D to RCT-5 in Fallujah to reinforce this AO in order to support decisive operations in and around Baghdad, Iraq. In June 2006, Task Force WOLFPACK received Company D back from RCT-5 and began conducting more aggressive Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations in and around Ar Rutbah, Iraq.
In July 2006, Task Force WOLFPACK was tasked with splitting the battalion by providing a headquarters and maneuver capability to operate near Rawah, Iraq. Task Force Rutbah, which consisted of Company A, 3d LAR, C/1/10 and one half of Headquarters and Service Company (-), 3d LAR continued to conduct counter-insurgency operations in and around Ar Rutbah, Iraq. Task Force Rawah, consisting of one half of Headquarters and Service Company (-) (REIN), 3d LAR and Company D, 3d LAR, conducted a RIP with 4-14 CAV and subsequently began COIN operations in and around Rawah and Anah, Iraq. In September of 2006, Task Force Rutbah and Task Force Rawah conducted a RIP with 2d LAR in both areas of operation. By early October 2006, the battalion had redeployed to Twentynine Palms, CA. The battalion deployed again to Iraq in November 2008, where it conduct COIN operations in AO Rutbah. The WOLFPACK redployed to Twentynine Palms, CA in May 2008.
Upon returning from Iraq, 3d LAR Bn began pre-deployment training for its fifth deployment to Iraq, including a month long alternate mission rehearsal exercise at the U.S. Army National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA, in January of 2009.
In March 2009, the battalion deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 09.1. While deployed to Iraq, Task Force WOLFPACK operated from the expeditionary air base Sahl Sinjar Airfield, conducting full-spectrum counterinsurgency operations throughout Iraq's restive and austere Ninewa Province. In partnership with U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. State Department, and Iraqi Security Forces, the Wolfpack engaged with local political and military leaders from the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi central government in order to facilitate a peaceful resolution of political disputes in an area with a long history of ethnic conflict. 3d LAR Battalion also interdicted smuggling efforts along the Iraq-Syrian border, with a presence that spanned more than 200 miles from the Jazirah Desert to the Tigris River and Iraq-Turkey border. The Wolfpack then conducted the light armored reconnaissance community's last military operation in Iraq, executing the responsible drawdown of the entire light armored reconnaissance equipment set and its return to the continental United States in September 2009.
Concurrent to the deployment in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Company A provided a platoon in support the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In January 2010, the WOLFPACK began pre-deployment training for its inaugural deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The training included squad, platoon, company, and the capstone battalion-sized training at Exercise ENHANCED MOJAVE VIPER in August 2010.
In November 2010 the battalion departed Twentynine Palms, CA and conducted a transfer of authority with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in the Southern Helmand River Valley of Afghanistan.