10/01/2004  California

Yesterday, five of us met with the current generation of 3/3 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, CA.  Besides myself, Bruce Devert, former 0311 came from the Bay area, Dan Ryan came up from Arizona, Mike Harrington from Houston and Ron Cislo, another of our great 0311s came all the way from Connecticut.

What a fantastic time it was.  These young warriors treated us like royalty, all the way from the CO, who is a Ripley trained Naval Academy graduate named Norm Cooling to the last PFC in the group.  We were able to spend several hours with 850 of them.  The rest of the battalion had already left for Hawaii to prepare mounting out for Afghanistan.  I gave them a speech about their heritage in WWII, Vietnam and Desert Storm and then the others in the “geezer platoon’ made some remarks.  There was a storm of OOORAHS and applause. After that we talked to individuals and small groups.  We talked to riflemen, mortarmen, docs, TACP guys, FOs, the whole shot.   It was the best thing I have done in at least ten years.  When they were dismissed they lined up for handshakes (and hugs from Pierrette).  A warrior dinner was held in the mess hall later. 

We are going to set up a support network to send these guys what they might need while deployed.  More on this later as we get better organized.  At least two of the geezers took photos which we will post on the net when available. 

Thanks to all of you who sent your remarks along.  They were greatly appreciated.

Let’s show these young Marines what it means to be part of the 3/3 family. 

Otto Lehrack
          Bruce Devert                                                    Otto Lehrack                    Bruce, Ron, Mike...Dan Ryan          Mike Harrington
Ron Cislo 
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MCB Hawaii
Story by:  Pfc. Rich Mattingly
Story Identification #:   200410816317


The end of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment's training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., was marked by a visit from a well-written alumni, retired Lt. Col. Otto Lehrack and several other veterans of the Vietnam conflict who served with America's Battalion.

The veterans greeted the Marines at MWTC's hangar, the morning after they returned from their final, battalion field exercise that had the leathernecks moving from the high altitude of Landing Zone Albatross through rugged, mountain terrain and bitterly cold temperatures into an "Afghani" village for a cordon and search operation.

"I know it sounds cliché," said Bruce Devert, a former rifleman with 3/3 during Vietnam, speaking to the assembly, "but it really is a deep honor to be able to be here with you today."

Many of the veterans were full of emotion, recounting memories and describing what it felt like to be part of "the greatest battalion in the World's Greatest Fighting Force."

"What you will be doing will be the most important thing you will ever do," said Lehrack, alluding to America's current Global War on Terrorism. "This war is the most important conflict since the Second World War."

The former leathernecks all shared with the gathered Marines lessons they learned on the battlefield and what they should remember when they deploy later this year.

Michael Harrington told the Marines they should certainly remember to write home and keep tabs on their family.

After the formation, several of the Marines of 3/3's past shared more stories and advice over a "Warrior's Dinner," that had been prepared for them by the food service Marines of MWTC and 3/3. Steak and shrimp and the subtle relief of another exercise ending safely and productively mixed with the stories of Dan Ryan, Harrington and Ron Cislo. Lehrack, who has written two books about 3/3 and the Marine Corps' involvement in Vietnam will publish a third book titled simply "America's Battalion," early next year. The text will cover 3/3's participation in Operation Desert Storm. The author also hopes to record the experiences of the battalion in Afghanistan and compile them into another text. America's Battalion completed training and returned to Hawaii over the weekend.

Pfc. Rich Mattingly
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Reginment     


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