“Sir, my question is, now that the 3rd Marines have been allowed to show their abilities to the world, are we going to be entering into combat rotations in the near future?” — Question by unknown 1/3 Marine to Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, December, 2004
Third Battalion is just one part of the Third Marine Regiment, the main ground force in the Third Marine Division (3/3/3: the source of its callsign, ‘Trinity’), and a unique unit in the Marine Corps. Because of Hawaii’s isolated location and lack of higher-ups, the regiment has an unusual amount of autonomy and a reputation to match.
The island is widely seen as a cushy, relaxing post by most of the Marine Corps, which is news to the several thousand infantrymen who think of grueling hikes around Kahuku, weeks shivering at Pohakuloa on the Big Island, and constant bus rides to the few live-fire ranges on the island. Also it’s incredibly cramped due to a chronic barracks shortage. Because of the logistical nightmare of trying to simultaneously fit all three battalions at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, one is almost always deployed overseas.
In the first three years of the Global War on Terror, Third Marines kept its eye squarely on the Pacific. Even while the First Marine Division raced towards Baghdad, the battalions of the Third Marines continued a steady cycle of Unit Deployment Programs to Okinawa, floats on Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) sailing around the Pacific, and some combat missions to the Philippines.
But in late 2004, Third Marines finally got into the War on Terror with a vengeance. First Battalion, embarked on the 31st MEU, was deployed to Iraq in September as the theater reserve for the Second Battle of Fallujah. In November, Third Battalion began its deployment to Afghanistan.
The pattern over the next seven years would be to cycle all three units continuously through the same battlespace: Regional Command East in Afghanistan (2004-2006), the Haditha Triad in Iraq (2006-2007), Karmah in Iraq (2007-2009), and Nawa District back in Afghanistan (2009-2011). First and Third Battalions also deployed to Garmsir District in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.
In addition, Third Battalion conducted its own deployment to Iraq in 2009 as Task Force Military Police; that same year, Second Battalion did a one-time deployment into northern Helmand Province and western Farah. Third Marine Regiment Headquarters conducted its only deployment to the Global War on Terror from 2008-2009 in Helmand Province, serving as the Ground Combat Element for the Marine surge and Operation Khanjar.
Throughout this whole time, Marines from the regiment were constantly moving back and forth between the battalions. A whole group of Marines from First Battalion — including Sergeants David Christoff, Benjamin Snyder, and Gayle Anders — even volunteered to deploy with Third Battalion in 2006, despite having just survived Second Fallujah. Not all relations were as cordial: Second and Third Battalions had a complicated rivalry that lasted through most of this period (more on this later).
There were other Marines who wound up doing individual augment deployments to units already in combat. One of the first Marines from Third Battalion to die in the Global War on Terror, Corporal Steven Rintamaki, was killed while serving as an augment to 3rd Battalion 1st Marines in September 2004. The last, Staff Sergeant Scott Dickinson, was killed while serving as an augment to Third Battalion Eighth Marines in July 2012. Another Third Battalion Marine, Corporal Dakota Meyer, would be awarded the Medal of Honor while serving with an embedded training team in Afghanistan in 2009 while the rest of the battalion was in Iraq.
But throughout this whole time, Marines from the regiment were more than just comrades-in-arms. When he was attending scout swimmers course, Lance Corporal Nick Kirven from Kilo Company became friends with two First Battalion Marines, Brian Medina and Christopher Lapka. When both of them were killed at Second Fallujah, Kirven placed a memorial to them on his website. After Kirven was killed the following month, his grave at Arlington Cemetery was placed right next to Medina’s: Third Marines to the end.
Site News: I’ve finished the last of the SIGACTs from May and June, and am going through and cleaning them up. I’ve also started fleshing out the other pages, starting with India Company. In addition, I’ve added several SIGACTs from 2006 and 2007: Haqlaniyah Hotel, FOB Haqlaniyah Attack, 31 Dec 07 Kilo IED Find, and India-3 Weapons Cache. Doc Hoppy from our sister site 33USMC.com has also posted a list of personal decorations for valor from the Global War on Terror.