History passed to present: Marines, sailors trek Iwo Jima
Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 200510422132
Story by Cpl. Martin R. Harris
IWO JIMA, Japan (Sept. 27, 2005) -- “This trip will be a memorable experience that you will never ever forget,” said the officer to the troops before boarding the C-9B Skytrain II aircraft.
Marines and sailors from 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, listened and stood before the officer as he spoke before setting out Sept. 27 from Camp Foster; headed to an island few Marines have ever had the chance to experience – Iwo Jima.
Hours later, using the very same runway that was used by kamikaze bombers nearly 60 years before, the service members touched down on the war-ravaged island, the site of the bloodiest battle of WWII.
Service members from each of the four companies within the battalion took full advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by attending and taking an active part in the battalion-sponsored professional military education. The Marines used the opportunity to educate each other about a monumental battle in U.S. military history – one that evokes imagery still fresh in American military perception.
“We wanted to gain an appreciation for the valiant efforts of the 70,000 Marines and sailors that fought during the battle of Iwo Jima,” said Capt. John Flynn, the aforementioned officer and commander of Headquarters and Support Company. “I feel that we have accomplished our goal by being able to walk through the footsteps of those who fought so bravely and sacrificed their lives for us.”
During his portion of the PME, which took place at the top of Mount Suribachi, Flynn quoted the former Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal by saying, “The raising of that flag on Mount Suribachi, means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
The Marines trudged nearly 15 miles, seeing and studying numerous sites throughout the island that still show evidence of the battle’s destruction.
“The Marines seemed to receive the information from the PMEs very, very well,” said 1st Sgt. Lenny Maldonado, Landing Support Company first sergeant. “The Marines gained a real insight into the battle by walking on the beach and climbing the mountain. It gave them a better sense of the heart and spirit of, not only the Marines and sailors that fought here, but their Japanese adversaries as well.”
During a stop at one of the many natural sulfur deposits, Lt. Col. John Giltz, the battalion executive officer, recalled a story he heard about Marines driving long pipes into the ground, so they could heat up their coffee with the natural heat from the burning sulfur.
In addition to unique stories passed down, the Marines and sailors also read Medal of Honor citations for the 27 medals awarded during the battle.
According to several Marines, the highlight of the trip was the hike to the top of the 546-foot high Mount Suribachi.
“The trip up the mountain was by far my favorite part of the trip,” said Pfc. Jim Kostopolous, a landing support specialist whose grandfather fought in, and survived, the Battle of Iwo Jima. “Before I joined the Marine Corps, I never thought I could really be part of something like this, but walking up the mountain I realized that I have earned the right to be classified with this rich history.”
At the top of the mountain, during a complete torrential downpour of rain, six Marines reconfirmed their oath of enlistment.