Monday, February 2, 2009
A steady stream of Marines will arrive back at Camp Pendleton from Iraq this month. A few hundred have already returned from a one year deployment. KPBS reporter Alison St John spoke with a Marine Captain who says this deployment was very different from previous tours in Iraq.
The Camp Pendleton-based Marines returning to base this month have different kinds of stories to tell from those told by the Marines who came home this time last year.
Captain Lawton King of Regimental Combat Team Five says many of the men in his unit never fired a shot in combat during the deployment. By the end of the 12 month deployment, his unit in western Anbar Province had reduced the number of battle positions from 50 to 10. Attacks on coalition forces were down from 16 a week to 2. And the forces were spending more time meeting with local chiefs than patrolling the streets.
King says Marines sometimes describe their job in Iraq as like taking medication for strep throat.
KING : If you do not finish medication, you can relapse even though you feel much better - so the Marines understood that their job was to finish the bottle.
King says 2 people were killed in action from his unit of several thousand. That’s far less than on previous deployments. And he says there are likely to be far fewer cases of PTSD - or post traumatic stress disorder - among this wave of returning Marines, than there were among those who came home last year.
King says after the returning Marines take some time off, many of them will start training for deployments in a different theatre… Afghanistan.
Alison St John, KPBS news.