MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines from 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company and 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company returned to Camp Lejeune Mar. 6 after a seven-month deployment to Iraq.
The 3rd Force's 7th and 8th Platoons, reserve units based out of Mobile, Ala., joined 4th Platoon in conducting more than 350 missions throughout the volatile Al-Anbar province.
Although the platoons deployed together, each of the fights the three platoons were faced with were very different and difficult, but were handled extremely well by each platoon, said Lt. Col. Pete Petronzio, commanding officer, 2nd Force Recon.
Working with Regimental Combat Team 7, 4th Platoon started out in Al-Asad conducting security operations primarily focusing on a top-10 list of high-value individuals being sought, before fighting their way through major battles in the towns of Fallujah and Hit.
The unit's 7th Platoon was in Husaybah, a town near the Syrian border, disassembling terrorist networks and doing other supporting operations, while 8th Platoon was in the Al-Qaim region-conducting missions seeking out individuals involved in terrorism.
"Basically, we were trying to disassemble terrorist networks, insurgent networks and trying to take out key insurgent personnel, and we were very, very successful," said Petronzio, a Beverly, Mass., native.
The platoons also conducted other missions such as limited scale raids, sniper missions and counter improvised explosive device operations.
Counter IED operations consisted of Marines setting up positions along stretches of roads known to be a target for IED activity. A small team of Marines would infiltrate at night, set up positions and then monitor the stretch of road, attempting to catch the insurgents in the act.
"We were reasonably successful at that," said Petronzio. "The Marines were awesome. They did phenomenal work under some very, very difficult conditions."
Though successful, the unit mourns the loss of three Marines in battle, two in Fallujah and one in Husaybah, with another 38 sustaining injuries.
"It is a devastating tragedy when one of our own is killed or seriously injured. When you get to know these incredible young men and see all that they give to one another, it just breaks our hearts when we lose someone," said Maj. Scott Ukeiley, executive officer, 2d Force Recon. "To see the family members grieve makes that process even more painful. And yet, we temper that with the fact that these true American heroes died doing something they absolutely loved doing and there is no other place they would have chosen to be than with their brother Force Reconnaissance Marines."
Though not an area heavily-covered by the media, Petronzio states that it was just as dangerous as other areas of Iraq, and could not have been protected any better than by his Marines.
"There were gunfights somewhere, everyday in the west," he said. "I cannot say enough great things about the Marines I was lucky enough to spend time with. They were each individually incredible, absolutely incredible. Our Reserve guys were really top-notch. I couldn't be happier with the Marines we got from 3rd Force Reconnaissance."
As the Reserve Marines, return to hometowns, it's back to business for the Marines and sailors of 2nd Force Recon.
"We are definitely glad to be home spending time with our families," said Petronzio. "After that we'll just crank it right back up again. It's a very quick turnaround."