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Modern Hard Corps Stories: 1/3rd BN, 3rd Marines

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July 23, 2020
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Modern Hard Corps Stories

Modern Hard Corps Stories is a monthly segment here at American Grit. We will take you through the modern history since the end of the Vietnam War to the present. Consequently, covering some of the greatest units that make up the United States Marine Corps.

3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines - Wikipedia

Our first Modern Hard Corps Stories is about the Hawaii based 3rd Bn. 3rd Marine Regiment, aka 3/3. It is one of only 3 permanent active infantry battalions of the 3rd Marine Division. As a result, 3/3 has had quite a story since its birth during the second world war.It would be criminal not to mention that 3/3 has one hell of a history in World War 2 and in Vietnam. Some serious bragging rights and some of the most notable Marines such Lt. Col "Ollie"North, and Col John Ripley to name a few. But the 3/3 story is a unique one for sure from the late 1970's through today. The unit was deactivated at Camp Pendleton, CA  in June 1974. However, 3/3 was reactivated on October 1st 1975 at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where it continues to reside.

Cold War and Iran

1980 saw the side by side events of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the hostage crisis in Iran. 3/3 was deployed to the region for a number of contingencies. The Soviet invasion had Afghanistan's southern neighbor Pakistan rightfully worried, Pakistan was at the time a key part of the US' Cold Ware deterrence strategy. 3/3 was at the ready for any operation in Pakistan, which most likely been the safeguarding of US Military assets or the evacuation of US citizens.3/3 was also the contingency force for Operation Eagle Claw. Unfortunately  this was a failed attempt by US Special Operations units to rescue American hostages from Iran. Had the operation continued, it is likely that a larger ground combat force may have been inserted into Iran, and that force would have been elements of 3/3.


In 1983 hostilities were at a boiling point in Beirut, Lebanon. Battalions from the Camp Lejeune, NC based 2nd Marine Division had been involved constantly in Beirut since 1958. During the summer of 1983, 3/3 which was deployed in the Red Sea was ordered to transit the Suez Canal and arrive on station in Beirut to reinforce 1st Bn. 8th Marines (1/8). 3/3 was withdrawn just weeks before the tragic terrorist attack on the Marine Barracks on October 23rd 1983.3/3 was the only non 2nd Marine Division infantry battalion to be part of operations in Beirut. For more on Beirut click here.

Saudi Arabia

Our Modern Hard Corps Stories takes us to August 2nd 1990 when Iraq invades Kuwait. Operation Desert Shield is thus initiated. Mission? To defend Saudi Arabia from any further aggression by Iraq, and 3/3 is one of the first Marine combat units to arrive in theater. 3/3 would go on to participate in some major events of the conflict.


By the time of Operation Desert Storm in mid January of 1991, 3/3 was now assigned to the 1st Marine Division and ultimately Task Force Taro. Before the official "ground war" to liberate Kuwait, a small Iraqi force had made an incursion into Saudi Arabia at the end of January 1991. The Iraqis attempted to seize the Saudi port city of Khafji. 3/3 would be one of the ground combat elements involved. Thus, making 3/3 one of the first units to engage the Iraqis in combat operations. An honor held in high regards by the Marines.

Task Force Taro

While the rest of the 1st Marine Division as well as the 2nd Marine Division were poised for the massive and highly successful raid into Kuwait, 3/3 along with 2/3 were the first Marine infantry units to enter Kuwait. Not only the first, but entirely on foot. Deep in the night of February 22nd 1991, 3/3 made it's insertion on foot into Kuwait and provided security and a clear path through Iraqi minefields for the 1st Marine Divisions mechanized assault. 3/3 conducted numerous combat operations over the next 96 hours before the cease fire. 3/3 was the first Marine unit to be transported out of Kuwait back to Saudi Arabia. They were also the first Marine unit to return home, arriving in Hawaii on March 7th 1991.

Between Desert Wars

From the day of their departure from Saudi Arabia in March 1991 through it's initial deployment to Afghanistan in 2004, 3/3 resumed it's role a force in readiness for the Asia Pacific region. 3/3 would be part of numerous deployments to Okinawa. They would also participate annually in multinational training operation. This included key allies in the region such as: Australia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. When President George W. Bush made a diplomatic visit to Indonesia, 3/3 was part of the security element.

Afghanistan and Iraq

By 2004 3/3 was again the Central Command theater (CENTCOM), deploying to Afghanistan for the first time. During the battalions 8 month deployment they would conduct mainly counterinsurgency operations as well as security for humanitarian operations.Not long after their return to Hawaii in the summer of 2005, 3/3 began it's pre-deployment workup. This would be its first of 3 high temp combat deployments to Iraq. With most of the time spent in Iraq's highly contested Al-Anbar province, 3/3 participated in some of the most intense fighting of the entire US involvement in Iraq. By it's final deployment in 2009, 3/3 was the last in the rotation of 3rd Marine Regiment's assignment as a regional police/security force. A notable point of the operation was the recovery of the remains of a US Navy pilot. The sailor had been missing since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.These Marine have a reputation as one of the hardest working units in the Marine Corps. In the same vein, it was not long after 3/3's return to Hawaii that they deployed again to Afghanistan. They would deploy twice from 2010 to 2012 mainly the notorious Helmand province. Unlike it's 2004 deployment, 3/3 was no operating in concert with Afghan National Army (ANA) as well as Afghan police forces. Both deployments had the battalion fighting not only Taliban forces but also the immense threat of IED's and insurgents with the Afghan forces.

The Legacy

To say that 3/3 has one heck of a legacy would an understatement. 3/3 has been the home to scout sniper Dakota Meyer. Dakota would eventually be awarded the Medal of Honor for valor. This was for heroic actions in Afghanistan, with an embedded team. Additionally, former Commandant Charles Krulak was once the commanding officer of 3/3. A very important figure in Marine history. Subsequently, this is where he initiated the tag "America's Battalion."  A moniker of some dispute. Specifically, this is a point of contention with 2nd Bn 8th Marines, also sharing the same motto.3/3 is also where former Secretary of Defense, and retired Marine 4-star General James Mattis was once a company commander. Today 3/3 is as ready as ever. Participating not only in it's traditional area of operations but also in Australia as part of the Darwin Rotational Force. Fostering international cooperation and goodwill. Their tireless work is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps.3rd Bn 3rd Marines- we salute you.Who should de do our next Modern Hard Corps Stories on? Sound off in the comments below!

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