U.S. NAVY 6TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- Marines and Sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group celebrated 237 years of Marine Corps history with a cake-cutting ceremony aboard the ships of the Iwo Jima ARG in honor of the Marine Corps birthday, Nov. 10-11, 2012.
The USS Iwo Jima, New York and Gunston Hall hosted respective ceremonies, their Marines and Sailors enjoying a special meal and birthday cake as the ships sailed through the Mediterranean Sea toward the Strait of Gibraltar.
The birthday was even more special for the Marines and Sailors of the New York as it was the first Marine Corps birthday celebration aboard her decks. The New York, built with seven-and-a-half tons of steel from the World Trade Center, is wrapping up her maiden deployment, carrying over 600 Marines of the 24th MEU.
The ceremony allowed the Marines and Sailors aboard all three ships an opportunity to build camaraderie and esprit de corps among their Navy counterparts, who they have been deployed with since March.
“Celebrating our birthday while deployed is always special. You always remember the birthdays you celebrate while out forward,” said Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer, 24th MEU, while addressing the Marines during the ceremony. “This birthday was particularly special because we were able to celebrate with our brothers and sisters in the Navy while aboard ship.”
Although the ceremonies didn’t take place in luxurious hotels and were without Dress Blue uniforms and celebratory drinks, the strongest traditions at the heart of the Corps’ birthday were ever present—the Marines themselves.
“On days like today, we don’t honor just the birthday. We honor those who are here today. We honor the memory of those who came before you,” said Lt. Col. David B. Sosa, the commander of troops and commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, as he addressed the crew of the New York. “I’m a better man because I joined the Corps, but more importantly, I’m a better man for having served alongside men and women like you. Happy birthday, Marines,” he said.
The 24th MEU, alongside the Iwo Jima ARG, is currently deployed in the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility as a disaster relief and crisis response force. They have supported a variety of missions in the U.S. Central and European Commands, assisted the Navy in safeguarding sea lanes, and conducted various bilateral and unilateral training events in several countries in the Middle East and Africa.
They are scheduled to return to their home bases in North Carolina later this year.