See some tremendous pictures of Lima Company here.
For our readers not familiar with the area around Motts Military Museum, we are only about two miles (as the crow flies) northeast of Rickenbacker International Airport. It’s on 1530 acres and has the two longest runways in the Midwest. It opened mid-June of 1942 as Lockbourne Army Airfield (named for the village just west of it,) later becoming Lockbourne Air Force Base. On May 18, 1974, the base was renamed Rickenbacker Air Force Base after the death on July 23, 1973, of the renowned “Captain Eddie” Rickenbacker, who was raised only a few miles from the base on the east side of Columbus. On September 30, 1979, the active duty Air Force personnel and planes officially left the base to tenant units of the Guard and Reserve from the Army, Navy, and Air Force during the downsizing of military bases following the Vietnam conflict.
On April 1, 1980, title to the base was officially given to the Ohio National Guard, and it became Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. Then, following the end of the Cold War and further downsizing of the number of military bases, on September 30, 1994, a civilian agency of the county assumed management of the base, and it was again renamed Rickenbacker International Airport. The military retained certain parcels of land for use by the Ohio Air National Guard (with two squadrons of fighter jets and one squadron of air refueling tankers,) Ohio Army National Guard (with a unit of helicopters and other units,) plus Army and Navy Reserve units.
Lima Company has a proud history, being formed in 1943 and serving admirably in most major combat operations in the Pacific Theater during WW II. At the end of WW II they became a Reserve unit here in Columbus, Ohio. They were activated and deployed to Korea in 1950 as Company C, 7th Infantry Battalion; and they suffered many casualties in the Chosin Reservoir campaign. In 1952 Company C was redesignated as the 27th Infantry Company USMCR. When the 4th Marine Division was formed in 1962, Lima Company assumed its current identity in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines. During the 1960’s they trained for duty in Vietnam and were nearly activated and deployed in 1965, but President Johnson rejected SecDef McNamara’s recommendation for their mobilization out of fear of political reprisal. They were moved in the late 1960s from Sandusky Road to another Columbus location and then moved again in 1971 to Pittsburgh, where they remained until 1981.
Although they were activated in 1990 for service in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, they never left training at Camp Lejeune because ground combat operations ended so quickly in Kuwait. In February 2004, they moved to their current location at the newly built Naval/Marine Corps Reserve Training Center at Rickenbacker International Airport. The 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, Lima Company, was comprised of ten full-time Marines and nearly 180 reservists. Lima is one of five companies that comprised 3/25, reporting to battalion headquarters near Cleveland, Ohio.
Lima Company was activated once again on January 4, 2005 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This newly activated Lima Company trained at Twentynine Palms Marine Air Ground Combat Center in California and was formed from five major units, 16 different Marine training centers in 12 states and one active duty Marine unit. In March 2005 they deployed to Iraq and became part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Their base camp was at the Soviet-built Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River in Al Anbar Provence of Iraq, a stronghold to some of the most violently combatant Iraqis and other insurgents in Iraq. Their area of responsibility was 1700 square miles with an Iraqi population of about 225,000 which covered four major metropolitan areas. The area was mostly Sunni and ran from Hit to Haditha and over to the Syrian border.
Because they were a Reserve unit, perhaps many of the Marines expected to be guarding some facility, and many feared that boredom might be their worst enemy. Reality immediately set in and erased any preconceived notions or expectations. Indeed, they were in the thick of a war zone, and combat became a daily occurrence.
During the six months of their deployment, they experienced 210 days of combat operations. Their motorized patrols covered more than 150,000 miles of hazardous roads covered with improvised explosive devices (IEDs.) They cordoned and searched door-to-door 14 cities. Lima Company conducted 12 Battalion/Regimental Combat Team Operations and 25 Company Operations. (A Marine Rifle Company is organized into three Rifle Platoons, a Weapons Platoon, and a Headquarters Platoon. Each Rifle Platoon is organized into three squads. The Weapons Platoon contains a Machine Gun Section, a Mortar Section, and an Assault Section. The mission of a Rifle Company is to “Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close contact.) Lima Company was in the middle of one of Iraq’s absolute worst battle zones.
Of the more than twenty articles I have written for “From the Trenches,” this is perhaps the most difficult to put into words. I know firsthand how combat situations affect each individual in a different way. So when I write about one individual veteran’s military experience, I merely have to comprehend and write how he felt.
Trying to draft an article that accurately describes what happened to more than 180 individuals ranging in age from 17 to 46 is a task I hadn’t tackled before. I have listened to interviews from many of these Lima Company veterans, and there are numerous perceptions of what the experience was like. Some were terrified. At times some thought the adrenaline rush of a fire fight was the ultimate feeling, and they thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t wait for the next firefight. Some were inwardly frightened to death. Some worried more about what was happening back home in the U.S. Many knew this was why they volunteered and were eager and proud to contribute to this war on terrorism. Leaders often worried more about taking care of their subordinates than they did themselves. Some were proud. Some had doubts. Some were sad. At times they felt great. At times they felt terrible. Some thought “it” was worth it. Some didn’t think “it” was worth it. Perhaps the only common thread was that every Marine would do whatever it took to protect the man next to him and bring the entire unit back home together when it was all over.
What I am trying to say as an author is that I cannot capture a universal picture of the emotions of an entire unit. If I tried, probably each member of Lima Company who read the text would say, “No. That’s not the way it was at all.” So perhaps my mission is simply to capture the overall legacy of these brave volunteers, so that their sacrifice will be written for future generations to read and remember these true American patriots. That is my excuse for this particular article being more factual that personal; but the more I read and watch interviews with these men, the more I honor them. And I truly wish each and every one of them would tell his tale to be placed in a single volume for the world to read.
From March until September of 2005, Lima Company sustained the fourth highest number of casualties of any Marine company in combat operations in Iraq and the highest number of casualties experienced by any Marine Reserve company in Iraq. They received 60 Purple Hearts, 23 awarded posthumously (15 of those 23 K.I.A. were from Ohio, many from here in Central Ohio.) In one day alone, August 1, six snipers were ambushed and killed by insurgents. The single bloodiest day, however, was August 3, when eleven marines were killed when their convoy struck an IED. During their 210 days of combat operations, thirty four were wounded and three were wounded twice. The media kept those of us in Central Ohio up to date on what Lima Company was experiencing in Iraq, and we became extremely proud of them.
On September 30, 2005, Lima Company returned to Camp Lejeune to be processed for demobilization. Numerous awards were personally presented to the Marines and sailors by Vice President Dick Cheney, who addressed the entire 3rd Battalion. A week later, on October 7th, Lima Company arrived back in Columbus. Those of us who witnessed more than 50,000 people lining the streets wearing red white and blue, waving flags & banners and cheering as the Lima Company busses made their way though Columbus streets back out to Rickenbacker will never forget that welcome. I am certain that the sailors and Marines of Lima Company will always remember the community’s support at their homecoming. It was a mutual scene of patriotism seldom seen anywhere since WW II.
Of course, the story doesn’t end when combat veterans are dismissed to their friends and family. There are more than 180 stories to be told about successes and difficulties in returning to civilian life and how life had also changed for those whose husbands, sons, brothers, & friends didn’t return. Just as each individual Marine endured the tour of Iraq in his own personal emotional state, the same is true following the homecoming. Some adapted well. Some quickly. Others have struggled and still have difficulties. Some have put “it” behind them. Others will never be able to. During a combat deployment, one must be ever vigilant, 24/7. One will experience tremendous highs and devastating lows. Returning to civilian life appears mundane following such a long time with such peaks and valleys. That transition is seldom an easy one for the veteran or his friends and family.
Probably nearly each and every Lima Company Marine wishes that outsiders would recognize their unit for their commitment and their successes, not for their casualties. They point to weapons confiscated and insurgents killed. They have memories of Iraqis they saved and/or who appreciated the Marines being there. They talk about holding ground where Iraqis voted in large numbers for the first time. They recall delivering soccer balls to children and doing other good deeds that were appreciated by the locals. They completed a difficult tour and excelled in one of the most difficult paces and times of the Iraq war. And we should forever honor these brave Marines of Lima Company.
Footnote: In writing this article, I talked with several former members of Lima Company; but three other sources were invaluable: 1) A book entitled Crossroads of Liberty by Robert M. Stroup II. This is a fabulous pictorial history of Rickenbacker IAP and includes a section on Eddie Rickenbacker’s life and info on Lima Company, including full-color photos of the fallen from Lima Company. The hard-cover book is a bargain at only $10 in the Motts Military Museum Gift Shop. 2) A booklet entitled The Lima Company Memorial: A Remembrance of Spirit and Choice. It is a summary of the history and Iraq experience of Lima Company that contains pictures of a traveling oil painting memorial and also brief comments and bios of the fallen contributed by family members, as well as a timeline and testimonials from two members. This very touching tribute can be purchased at the Ohio Statehouse Museum Shop here in Columbus or ordered from: http://www.limacompanymemorial.org 3) A DVD entitled Combat Diary – The Marines of Lima Company. This is mostly video footage that the Marines took themselves during combat operations in Iraq and made into a 91 minute documentary by A&E Indie Films. You can find it at Amazon.com. Of 27 who wrote reviews for Amazon, 24 gave it five stars. Here you’d certainly see the difficulty of writing all these differing emotions into one brief article for a newsletter.