1st Radio Battalion

Isle Marines Return From Iraq Conflict -
About 88 members of the 1st Radio Battalion are still in the Middle East

by Gregg K. Kakesako (gkakesako@starbulletin.com)

Minutes after the chartered Hawaiian Airlines 767 jet touched down at Kaneohe Bay yesterday, Lt. Col. Mark Aycock broke out the Marine Corps flag, proudly waving it from the cockpit of the aircraft as it taxied to Hangar 5. After being away for exactly four months, 120 Marines from the 1st Radio Battalion were home. Aycock's wife, Julie, greeted him with a lei of small bottles of Amaretto liqueur.

"I would have liked a bottle of fine wine," the battalion's commanding officer said in jest, "but this will do."

Nearly 250 members of Aycock's battalion left Kaneohe on Feb. 9. About 200 of them were sent to fight in Iraq, Aycock said. "About 88 of them are still in Iraq and Kuwait," he added, "and will return home later this summer." Forty other Marines from the battalion returned last week. Aycock never deployed into Iraq, staying behind in Kuwait to direct the operations from Camp Commando, which came under missile attack during the opening moments of the war on March 19.

"That was scary," Aycock added. "It was very hairy. The attack occurred around 10:15 in the morning while we were holding our daily staff meeting. We could hear the impacts. "There also were a lot of long, hot and sleepless nights," Aycock added, "a lot of worrying for those Marines who had to go into Iraq."

Rochelle Guzman said those missile attacks made her "nervous." Guzman said her husband, Staff Sgt. Steven Guzman, told her later that "he never heard anything that loud before." A nursing student at Hawaii Pacific University, Rochelle Guzman said she left her television on during the entire course of the war. "It was tough trying to concentrate on my schooling with all this going on. I watched the news all the time. It was nerve-racking for me."

She said her husband only got a day's notice before he had to leave in February. "It was rough there was nobody to come home to," Rochelle Guzman said, "but friends, the community here and my church helped me."

Returning yesterday on another aircraft was Maj. Donald Thieme, who was stationed in Bahrain with the headquarters of Marine Forces Pacific. Awaiting him was his 3-week-old son, David. "His name comes from the Bible," Thieme said, "and his middle name is Armand, which was his uncle's, his grandfather's and his great-grandfather's name."

Julie Aycock said she hopes her husband will be able to spend more time at home. "He's been home for only four months in the last 18 months," she said. "Last year, he was in Bahrain for six months."