Utah Marines return from Iraq

2008-05-01T23:00:00Z Utah Marines return from IraqJoe Pyrah - DAILY HERALD Daily Herald
May 01, 2008 11:00 pm  • 

Lance Cpl. Russ Whetten doesn't mind the Marines, but seeing the same small group of faces for a year can get a little stale.

"How many times can you say 'Hey, what's up?' " said the Orem native, who returned Thursday from a tour in Iraq. "It's nice to be back in society."

Specifically the society of his wife, Buffy. The two were married seven months before Whetten was deployed, meaning he has spent more time with his battalion than his wife over the past year and a half.

He returned with the bulk of Marine Corps Reserve Company C, 4th Light Armored Battalion after four months in training and then seven months in Iraq.

The Marines spent their time escorting convoys in the Anbar province and training the Iraq Highway Patrol, which shouldn't be confused with the same type of training given to, say, the Utah Highway Patrol.

"I don't think they were handing out tickets," said company commander Maj. Mark Campbell.

Instead they were looking for improvised explosive devices and otherwise keeping roadways safe as Iraq tries to rebuild itself in the five-year conflict.

It was Campbell's second tour, the first being in 2003.

"The stability in Anbar Province has gone up considerably," he said, noting that only one Marine was wounded in their time there, when his vehicle hit an IED.

Whetten expected a little more chaos.

"It was a lot more mellow than I was anticipating," he said. "They seemed pretty put together. They know what they're doing."

Now that he's back, Whetten is hitting the books with a summer semester at UVSC and then on to BYU in the fall to study optometry.

First, he'll spend some time getting reacquainted with Buffy, who was shivering in the cold winds at Camp Williams on Thursday with hundreds of others waiting for fathers, brothers, husbands or boyfriends.

Buffy Whetten spent the months apart living with her husband's parents, Sharon and Max, who said technology like Web cams made it a little easier to communicate.

They said most of what they heard from their son was "ordinary news," which under the circumstances was the best kind.

"There was a little apprehension now and then," said Max Whetten.

The Marines will have a few months off before they start training again but aren't expecting to be deployed for some time. While there are no guarantees, the Marine Corps typically has a "dwell time" at home of five years after a one-year tour.

In the short-term future, Sgt. Nicholas Barker is looking forward to his dirt bike and the outdoors.

The Provo resident is transferring to Utah State University in the fall, but for now, "I'm just going to get in my truck and go up in the mountains for a while."

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