CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — When service members return home with their units from a deployment, they normally get a celebratory welcome.
Family and friends often are holding banners and balloons, waiting to be reunited.
But service members who return individually rarely get to experience the unit-level welcome familiar to most Americans. Marine Corps Community Services works to give those individuals the same level of recognition for the crucial and dangerous missions they have completed.
Individual augmentees are service members who solely deploy with a unit outside their parent command to fill a position requiring a specialized skill.
Three Marines with 3rd Marine Logistics Group received MCCS Individual Augmentee Welcome Home packages May 13 at Camp Kinser:
Staff Sgt. Joseph R. Gonzales, of Idaho Falls, cargo air liaison element chief, Cpl. Joel A. Gibbs, a landing support specialist, and Sgt. Jennifer M. Moore, an administrative specialist, all with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd MLG, III Marine Expeditionary Force. They received the packages after returning from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“All I expected to get was a simple ‘Good job and welcome back,’” Gonzales said. “Out of five deployments, I’ve never received anything like this — it’s good.”
Col. Edmund J. Bowen, regimental commanding officer of CLR-37, presented the packages on behalf of MCCS. They consisted of letters of appreciation from the assistant chief of staff of MCCS for Marine Corps Installations Pacific, as well as MCCS thank you coins, vouchers for meals, tours, plane tickets, bowling and outdoor recreation activities.
“When individual augmentees deploy, a lot of times they don’t have a return reunion as service members would have coming back from deployment with a unit,” said Joann Ninneman-Nakama, community services coordinator for MCCS at Camp Kinser. “We want (individual augmentees) to be recognized for their efforts. That’s why this program was conceived.”