By Sgt. Heather Golden, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – The Marines, sailors and families of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, said and hugged their goodbyes Wednesday morning as the War Dogs left for their first combat deployment since 2008.
The unit is headed to the familiar sands of Afghanistan, but this deployment’s mission is far different from their last, said Staff Sgt. Ira Prahl, deputy family readiness officer, 2/7.
“The last time in 2008 was a very kinetic deployment for the battalion,” Prahl said. “There was a lot of fighting going on. The mission this time is to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces to get them into a position where they are ready to take over.”
The unit has spent the last several months preparing for this new purpose, traveling all over the state to get the best training possible. The Marines and sailors completed mountain and team building exercises at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif.; and infantry immersion training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The unit even sent a handful of Marines to San Diego State University to gain a basic proficiency in the Pashtu language. Of course, the War Dogs completed weeks on desert-based exercises here at their home base, as well.
“The last time, we were there to take over and stabilize areas. Now, we’re talking joint patrols. The commander’s intent is to shift it all over to the Afghans,” Prahl said. “We should not be participating in big, Marine-only operations like we have had in the past.”
Unit leadership is also expecting these next seven months to be calmer than during the last combat deployment.
Even so, saying goodbye wasn’t any easier, said Juana Brown, wife of Lance Cpl. Tyrone Brown, team leader, Company G, 2/7. This will be the Browns’ second deployment faced as a couple.
“There are lots of tears today,” Juana admitted. “I hope this is his last one.”
The Wagners, a family of five deployments under their belts, agreed. They were there to see off their Marine, Lance Cpl. Andrew Wagner. The most current generation of military vets in the family includes Lance Cpl. Wagner, his brother, Phillip, who is a former Marine, and their older sister, who is an Army captain.
“With us, the first deployment per kid is always the hardest,” said mom Wanda Wagner. “And this is Andy’s first.”
For more photos and periodic updates on the War Dogs’ time in Afghanistan, check out the Combat Center’s official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thecombatcenter. War Dog families can also find information by registering with the unit’s eMarine site.