A Marine with the 8th Marine Regiment provides fresh water to a child during the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2021. Photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz.
Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment — a unit slated to be fully deactivated soon — were among the first Americans to respond to the crisis in Kabul. Alongside them, Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division are making history as the US races to close the book on Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 plan slated the 8th Marine Regiment for full deactivation, and while the regiment held a ceremony to case its colors in January, the official deactivation of each battalion has been staggered. In May, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, was fully dissolved, while the 1st and 2nd Battalions were temporarily moved to other regiments. Currently, 1/8 falls under the 6th Marine Regiment, while 2/8 is under the 2nd Marine Regiment.
This is the fourth deactivation of the 8th Marines, which first activated in 1917 for service in World War I. Two years later, the regiment was deactivated as the Corps downsized during peacetime. Less than a year later, the 8th Marines were born again to serve in Haiti during the Banana Wars.
In 1925, they were deactivated once more, this time for 15 years until they were needed again in World War II. The regiment was the first to deploy to the Pacific against the empire of Japan, fighting on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Tinian, Saipan, and Okinawa.
Following the war and the occupation of Japan, they were deactivated a third time but tapped again in 1950. Since then, the 8th Marines have continued to deploy around the world. The 1st Battalion’s barracks were targeted in the 1983 Beirut bombings, and the 2nd Battalion participated in the invasion of Grenada four days later. They went on to serve in both Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the regiment served in notable battles such as Fallujah, Ramadi, and Nasiriyah. The 8th Marines again distinguished themselves during Operation Enduring Freedom, in places like Garmsir, Marjah, and Sangin.
Staff Sgt. Steven Mashburn, a veteran of the 8th Marines and current instructor at the Marine Raider Training Center, shared some advice for the deactivated Marines.
“Share your skills and leadership,” Mashburn told Coffee or Die Magazine. “You have knowledge beyond the baseline that’s been passed down. That can easily be lost. Don’t let 8th Marines lessons that were earned and learned the hard way be lost because you don’t want to integrate and be a leader. Be a leader. Look out for your guys and retain the lessons learned by your 8th Marines heritage.”
The 8th Marine Regiment has long been one of the most reliable units in the 2nd Marine Division. As the Marine Corps reorganizes as part of the new Force Design, being called upon to respond to the evacuation of Kabul bookends the 8th Marines’ latest and longest run. Given the unit’s history, the Corps will likely break the glass of the 8th Marines’ colors a fifth time and call on the storied regiment in future conflicts.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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