CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- After nearly eight months, a group of Michigan natives returned home after answering the call to arms for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Approximately 250 Marines from Company B, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment returned stateside and demobilized at the French Creek Recreation Center here Oct. 29.
The company of reservists, based in Saginaw, Mich., completed their tour of active duty, which began Feb. 26, with a safety stand down. The series of briefs covered subjects such as suicide prevention and employment rights.
"It is important for these Marines to understand things are different now that they are back. We want to raise their awareness and have them look out for friends as they return from theatre," said Staff Sgt. Scott S. Kimmel, who gave the briefs. "This also is a way for the Marine Corps to hammer home safety for our reserve counterparts."
Kimmel, a Gastonia, N.C., native said the stand down is the last evolution in the demobilization process. They have already completed their medical, dental and administrative checkouts.
During their activation period, this Marine infantry company deployed to Camp Fox, Kuwait, where they took on the task of providing security to coalition forces, to include eight battalions from the 2nd Force Service Support Group, and an ammunition supply point.
Their daily routine consisted of eight-hour shifts in the towers along the camp's perimeter and security patrols in the vicinity. Some Marines even moved north into Iraq providing security for contractors transporting vital supplies.
In addition to completing their security mission, the Marines also focused on increasing their physical strength and advancing their hand-to-hand combat skills through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
To break the monotony of the shifts, Sgt. Jason R. Hart kept them motivated by heading up the MCMAP and topping it off with some intense physical training.
"We did a lot of MCMAP training and a lot of squad-on-squad physical training," said the leader of 2nd Platoon.
The Marines resembled chiseled warrior statues as they sat intently listening to Kimmel, as he informed the group on rights the federal government guarantees now that they have returned.
Corporal Michael Lalonde Jr. said he is now in better physical condition for applying to the police academy next year. The Clinton Township, Mich., native said he feels prepared from the extra weight lifting and the MCMAP training. He attained the third phase of the martial arts training - the green belt.
As the company returns home to friends and loved ones, they appear fit and eager to continue their monthly reserve training. Additionally, some will return to civilian jobs while others are choosing to remain in uniform.
Hart, a Saginaw native said the deployment convinced him to "Stay Marine." He was a Michigan State student on active duty when the company received activation and deployment orders. He plans to continue his military career after graduating. He wants to apply for a commissioning program and continue serving in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer or a helicopter pilot.