The current Battalion Insignia was established in 2009, it is designed to represent the history of the Marine Corps Air Defense community. Dating back to the defense battalions activated in the Pacific Campaign, and assigned to hold areas for offensive operations of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) against ground, air and sea-borne attacks, to current day operations conducted by the battalion.
The blue back ground with white stars, represents the authorized shoulder insignia for Defense Battalion, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps (1st MAC).
The Scorpion has been a continual symbol since the early inception as a separate air defense organization within the Marine Corps. The Scorpion depicts the unit’s suitability in rough terrain, adaptability and tenacity.
The crossed missile round and rifle represent the unit’s dual missions; air defense and ground security operations.
The Phrase “Feel the Sting” is a longstanding statement within the battalion and is a fierce term of pride among the Marines past, present and future of 3d LAAD Bn.
3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3d LAAD Bn) traces its roots back to the defense battalions of World War II. In 1939, Commandant Major General Thomas Holcomb formed four defense battalions. These battalions consisted of three anti-aircraft batteries, three seacoast batteries, and a ground and anti-aircraft machine gun battery. Near the end of 1941, defense battalions accounted for 20% of the total Fleet Marine Force (FMF) and defended the islands of Wake, Johnston, and Midway. At Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, the 3d Defense Battalion landed amongst the first waves of the 1st Marine Division. Later defense battalions employed as perimeter security at Henderson Airfield and repulsed several Japanese counter-attacks. The necessity for Marines capable of defending the skies as well as repelling an enemy ground attack continued to expand throughout the course of the war. By the end of 1943, defense battalions reached a top strength of 19, totaling 26,685 Marines. Defense battalions were later disbanded or reformed to anti-aircraft battalions as World War II progressed. These defense battalions are the forefathers of 3d LAAD Bn.
Marines Get Missiles
Near the end of World War II, scientists were able to incorporate jet engine technology into combat aircraft. This development created the need for a weapon system to counter the new air threat. In the 1950’s the Corps fielded the Convair RIM-2 Terrier anti-aircraft missile system but it ultimately fell short of expectations. In 1960 the Marine Corps adopted the Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK) missile system. The HAWK missile was employed by the three Light Anti-Aircraft Missile (LAAM) Battalions in the Marine Corps. Marines from Battery A, 1st LAAM Battalion were airlifted into Da Nang, Vietnam by February of 1965. They were combat operational within days, nearly a month before the arrival of major combat forces into theater. Later, 2nd LAAM Battalion joined the fight in Vietnam and deployed to defend the airfield at Chu Lai.
Medium and high altitude anti-aircraft weapons became extremely precise and effective by the mid 1950’s. In order to avoid surface to air missile fires, enemy aircraft entered the battle space at low altitudes and masked their movements utilizing the terrain. The ever-increasing speed and maneuverability of low-flying jet aircraft increased the need for effective, man-portable air defense weapons. In 1958, the Redeye missile went into development to fill the Corps low altitude vulnerability. However, it experienced numerous set-backs due to its inability to meet certain performance criteria; mainly it was only capable of striking aircraft with outgoing trajectories. While still in the development stage and constrained by limited speed, maneuverability, and discrimination capability; the Redeye was far superior to any other potential low-altitude air defense weapon. Therefore in 1967, the Redeye missile¬¬ (a heat seeking, shoulder-fired, man portable air defense weapon) became operational. With the addition of this short weapon the Marine Corps had established the fundamental elements for integrated air defense: radar surveillance and detection, fighters, HAWK, and shoulder-fired missiles. During Vietnam, Redeye missile platoons were formed and fell under the Marine Division. In 1969, the Redeye platoons were moved from Division and assigned to the Air Wing, consolidating all antiaircraft missiles under the Wing.
In 1971, 3d Redeye Platoon, Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing deployed in support of 7th Fleet to provide air defense to ships operating in the Gulf of Tonkin adjacent to Vietnam. This allowed naval gunfire ships to continue to fire against North Vietnamese targets without diverting carrier aircraft to combat patrols.
The Redeye remained in the U.S. arsenal until the early 1990’s when funding was denied to extend its shelf-life beyond 24 years. In 1971 the Redeye II was recommended for development, it had Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and night vision capabilities. On 10 March 1972, the Redeye II was re-designated as the Stinger missile. To date, the U.S. military has fielded four variants of the Stinger, the latest of which (Stinger-Reprogrammable Micro Processor Block I) is employed today by the Stinger gunners of 3d LAAD Bn.
Our Battalion: Operational and Combat History
The Stinger Missile found its home in the mid-1970’s when 3d Forward Area Air Defense (FAAD) Platoon stood up under Marine Air Support Squadron 3 (MASS 3), MACG-38. The Marines of 3d FAAD Platoon began to receive initial training on the Stinger missile as early as March of 1976. 3d FAAD Platoon was eventually supplemented with a headquarters section and activated as 3d FAAD Battery on 8 March 1982 under the command of Captain R.F. Marchewka. After its activation as a battery, 3d FAAD Battery became an autonomous unit falling directly under MACG-38. Over the course of the next two years, the battery grew to five platoons. At the change of command ceremony on 9 July 1986 between Major R.J. Duhon and Lieutenant Colonel R.C. Dodt, 3d FAAD Battery became 3d LAAD Bn.
From 1986 to August 1990, the battalion supported several Weapons Tactics and Instructor (WTI) flight phases in Yuma, AZ, Combined Armed Exercises in Twenty-nine Palms, CA, and Red Flag exercises in Nellis, NV. The battalion also remained heavily committed around the globe, providing LAAD sections in support of the 11th, 13th, and 15th Marine Amphibious Units. On 8 October 1987, a detachment from the battalion boarded the USS Okinawa for deployment with Contingency MAGTF 1-88. During Operation EARNEST WILL in 1988, the 3d LAAD Bn Marines aboard the USS Okinawa provided air defense and manned defensive positions aboard Mobile Sea Bases Wimbrown VII and Hercules during the Iran-Iraq Tanker Wars. Their efforts deterred Iran’s ability to disrupt oil transportation in the Persian Gulf and provided a mobile operating base in the center of the combat patrol area of operations.
The battalion was tasked to support Operation DESERT SHIELD after Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990. On 12 August 1990, advance elements of the battalion deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf in support of 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Once on the deck, Alpha Battery defended the vital assets of Jubail Airport, Jubail Port, King Abdul Aziz Naval Base and Sheik Isa Airfield, Bahrain against air threats. Bravo Battery was in direct support of 7th Marine Regiment. Throughout the course of this conflict, the Marines of 3d LAAD Bn set a firm precedence for their utility on the battlefield. After the conclusion of Operation DESERT STORM, the battalion resumed normal training operations and continued to support west coast Marine Expeditionary Units, formerly Marine Amphibious Units.
In1998, forward deployed elements of our battalion participated in Operation SAFE DEPARTURE, a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation in Eritrea. This operation resulted in the safe removal of 105 Americans and 67 third country nationals.
Shortly after the tragic events of 11 September 2001, 3d LAAD Bn Marines were again called to action. The LAAD Detachment assigned to the 15th MEU defended a critical forward arming and refueling point in Pakistan. This LAAD section enabled Task Force 58 to gain a strong foothold in the country of Afghanistan with its seizure of the airfield at Camp Rhino.
In February 2003, the battalion deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Force base in Kuwait in preparation for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The battalion supported a wide array of units with ground based air defense during the initial stages of the war. The battalion returned to Iraq, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from February 2004 to September 2004, and again in August 2006 to February 2007, to provide base defense for Al Asad Air Base.
The battalion was called to action again in September 2007 to April 2008 to provide base defense for Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM Horn of Africa.
From February to September 2010, 3d LAAD Bn provided base defense for Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. The battalion again displayed its utility and versatility on the battlefield during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM 10.1 by conducting a wide variety of distinct missions. Alpha Battery operated the main entry control point of Camp Leatherneck, provided a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel force, conducted combat patrols, and trained Afghan forces. Bravo Battery’s mission centered on small unit decentralized counterinsurgency operations which included key leader engagements, counter improvised explosive device operations, and combat patrolling.
The Legacy of LAAD Continues
With the war in Iraq over the draw down in Afghanistan 3d LAAD Bn did not deploy as a battalion for last three years. During this time 3d LAAD Bn participated in multiple exercises with I Marine Expeditionary Force throughout the southwest United States and has supported the 11th, 13th, and 15th MEUs with LAAD detachments. In 2013 the battalion provided the first ever LAAD detachment in support the Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa. Additionally, the unit has sent out multiple individual augments in support of Marine Corps and Joint operations around the world to include support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan and Marine Aircraft Group 50 in Bahrain.
In August 2014, The Battalion was again tasked by I MEF to provide forces to support the newly formed Special Purpose MAGTF Crisis Response-Central Command. Bravo Battery was subsequently deployed within 45 days as the ACE Security Force for Isa Air Base in Bahrain.
As one of only two ground based air defense units in the Marine Corps, 3d LAAD Bn Marines have proven to be a unique and critical force protection and fires capability for the Marine Air Ground Task Force. The proud legacy of Marine Corps air defense is alive and well and today at 3d LAAD Battalion and will continue to be for years to come.
• Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Southwest Asia, August 1990 – May 1991.
• Operation Safe Departure, Eritrea June 1998.
• Operation Stabilize, East Timor, April 2001.
• Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, September 2001 - June 2002.
• Operation Enduring Freedom, Kuwait, February 2003.
• Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq, February 2003 – May 2003, February 2004 – September 2004, August 2006 – February 2007.
• Operation Enduring Freedom, Djibouti, September 2007 – April 2008.
• Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, in support of International Security Assistance Force, February 2010 – September 2010.
3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion’s battle color proudly displays:
• Presidential Unit Citation Streamer with One Bronze Star
• Navy Unit Commendation Streamer with Three Bronze Stars
• Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer with Three Bronze Stars
• National Defense Service Streamer with One Bronze Star
• Southwest Asia Service Streamer with Three Bronze Stars
• Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer
• Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer
• Afghanistan Campaign Streamer with One Bronze Star
• Iraq Campaign Streamer with Four Bronze Stars