OAHU, HAWAII -- Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) enjoyed a weekend of rest and relaxation on the tropical beaches of Hawaii, Feb. 24 – 26 during their six-month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
While on the job, the 11th MEU, comprised of the Command Element, MEU Service Support Group 11, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, both from Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, is one of the nation's forward deployed, quick-response teams, capable of accomplishing numerous missions around the globe.
During their "libo," some Marines and sailors spent the weekend on sight-seeing tours, swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear waters. Many chose to indulge in the variety of authentic Hawaiian cuisine, while others chose to work on their tans by shedding their boots and uniforms in favor of airy shirts, swimsuits and sandals.
"This is the first time that I have ever been to Hawaii and I'm loving it," said Cpl. Hugo Villanueva, personnel clerk, command element. "Everything is new to me here. No matter what I see, what I eat or who I meet, it's all new."
While many of the young Marines stormed the nightclubs and local bars, many of the "not-so-young" chose to kick their feet up and relax on the many white-sand beaches the Island of Oahu had to offer.
GySgt. Rick Garcia, supply chief, command element, was one of those who took it easy. "I hung out with the older crowd," said Garcia with a laugh. "The two tops," he said referring to Master Sgt.'s Kevin Bonds, headquarters commandant, and Mathis B. Richard, communications chief, command element, two of unit's most senior Marines. "We just had a couple of drinks, walked around and enjoyed the beautiful Hawaiian night," said Garcia.
For Marines who had spent the previous two weeks in cramped quarters, sailing across the Pacific and putting up with the undulating swells of an unpredictable ocean, just being able to walk around was a welcomed experience.
According to Lance Cpl. Marilyn M. Zeledon, data network administrator, command element, it was good to get off the ship and be able to feel the sunlight for more than a few moments and to see and feel the day change in front of her eyes rather than to be surprised by the changes through a ship's porthole. "Coming here was also a great cultural experience," said Zeledon. "I got to experience a traditional Hawaiian luau for the first time."
As they pulled out of Pearl Harbor and headed into the horizon, many in the 11th MEU looked back at their memories of Hawaii and couldn't help but say that this stop will undoubtedly be one of the many highlights of their deployment.