Local News

Reservists Arrive At Camp Lejeune As Marines Depart

Posted January 28, 2003 2:13 a.m. EST

— As thousands of Marines ship out for duty overseas, reservists are arriving at this sprawling base to take their place.

Almost 800 reserve Marines and sailors from New England and Oklahoma have arrived in recent days.

The first priority for these citizen-soldiers is getting familiar with the base and surrounding Jacksonville, said Lt. Col. Rene Gagnon, 41, a construction contractor from Burlington, Vt., who is commanding officer of the 1st Battalion of the 25th Marine Regiment.

Sunday's plans included watching the Super Bowl.

"We plan to get settled on the base first, then we'll grant liberty," Gagnon said. "It's not going to be restrictive at all."

The battalion left Boston for Camp Lejeune on Friday. It includes reserve units from Ayer, Mass.; Topsham, Maine; Londonderry, N.H.; Plainville, Conn.; and Broken Arrow, Okla.

Half of the reservists have academic degrees or were attending college when they were mobilized. Some are doctors, lawyers and police officers.

"Approximately one third of them are from law enforcement," Gagnon said, including about two dozen Boston police officers.

They have been ordered to take up arms for one year, with the possibility of a one-year extension under a partial mobilization authorized by President Bush.

No further details of the unit's assignment were disclosed.

About 7,000 members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade left Camp Lejeune for the Persian Gulf two weeks ago.

Following to support them was a floating aviation repair shop that finished preparations Sunday to leave the state port at Morehead City, said Capt. Bruce Frame, a spokesman for the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station near Havelock.

Aviation repair specialists working aboard the ship - which is piloted by a civilian crew but contracted to military sealift command - work on any aircraft parts that can't be fixed at an airfield, Frame said.

The Marines from Cherry Point deploying on the ship will be expected to keep AV-8B Harriers and EA-6B Prowlers flying.

The Cherry Point aircraft logistics squadron was joined by Marines from similar squadrons at Beaufort, S.C., and Miramar, Calif., which typically work on F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter.

The SS Wright normally docks in Baltimore, Md., with a skeleton crew of nine merchant sailors. When called into duty, it carries a 35-person civilian crew and 300 or more Marines and sailors.