Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lava Dog Days

A memory milestone passed without mention a couple of weeks ago; not mentioned, but reflected upon with great fondness and profound nostalgia.

The Colonel, admittedly arriving at the conclusion solely through self-analysis, has led an amazing life, replete with opportunities and adventures of which most can only dream.  

He's travelled the globe, setting foot on every continent save Antarctica and visiting far more nation states than he has states in the republic of which he is a lucky citizen.

He's sailed "the seven seas," crossing lines to become both a shellback (Equator) and a bluenose (Arctic Circle).  

The Colonel graduated from the best high school in the world -- Balboa High in the Panama Canal Zone.

He graduated from the Harvard of the South -- Ole Miss.

The Colonel commanded the best rifle company in the Marine Corps -- Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines; the best recruiting battalion in the Marine Corps -- Recruiting Station Macon/Atlanta; and the best recruiting regiment in the Marine Corps -- the Sixth Marine Corps District.   

And, along the happy and lucky way, the Colonel commanded the best infantry battalion in the Marine Corps -- 1st Battalion, 3d Marines -- of which he took command twenty years ago on Saint Valentine's Day.

The 1st Battalion of the Marine Corps' Third Marine Regiment was then, and is now, homeported in Hawaii aboard a tiny base on the windward side of Oahu.  Home for 1/3 (in the Corps' shorthand for its infantry battalions) may have been a constricted stretch of coral and sand between Kaneohe Bay and the extinct Ulupa'u volcanic crater, but the operating range for 1/3 was half the globe.

In the scant eighteen months (14 February 1997 to 14 August 1998) during which the Colonel had the high honor and privilege to command 1/3, the Marines and sailors (nicknamed "Lava Dogs") of the best battalion in the Marine Corps deployed across the Hawaiian islands and then across the Western Pacific.  

In January of 1998, 1/3 deployed to Okinawa, Japan for a seven-month rotation, "chopping" (operational slang for change of operational control) from the 3d Marine Regiment on Hawaii to the 4th Marine Regiment on Okinawa; going, in self-identification, from the 1st Battalion, Third Marines to the "Best Battalion, 4th Marines."

During those seven months on Okinawa, Marines and sailors from 1/3 further deployed (in battalion or company strength) to Australia, Hokkaido, South Korea, Fujiyama, and Indonesia.  One reinforced platoon went aboard the USS Independence (as a security force) for its final operational deployment to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Southern Watch.

Throughout the Colonel's tenure as commanding officer, the professionalism and can-do spirit of the officers and men of the 1st Battalion never ceased to amaze.  The Colonel takes no credit for their amazing performance except that he was at least cognizant enough to recognize the enormous pool of talent and initiative upon which he was afloat, and that he was at least bright enough to give them free rein.

Many of the young officers and men of 1/3 during the peace-time of the late '90's have gone on to distinguished service in combat over the last decade and a half -- a half dozen in battalion-level or higher command.

The Colonel has many appellations by which he is proud to be referred -- among the best is "Lava Dog."               

Post a Comment