Marines headed for Afghanistan baptized in ocean off Camp Pendleton
A group of Marines headed for Afghanistan underwent baptism in the ocean off Camp Pendleton, an area normally used for amphibious assault training.
The 29 Marines, all volunteers, are reservists assigned to the Ohio-based 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment. The baptisms, done Sunday morning by the battalion chaplain, are part of Operation Sword of the Spirit, a program meant to prepare the battalion for duty in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.
The baptism service was attended by Lt. Col. Lawrence Kaifesh, the battalion commander, who called each of the 29 Marines forward for the symbolic immersion at Gold Beach.
"The spiritual and religious foundation that we're able to develop here allows us to perform our job the way we need to in a very challenging environment," Kaifesh said.
The baptisms were performed by Navy Chaplain Lt. William Hlavin and Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Eric Dickerson.
"I believe and trust that God will take me and my fellow Marines back home safely," Lance Cpl. Yeke Sumo said in a statement released by the Marine Corps.
Forty-six Marines and two Navy corpsmen from the battalion were killed in Iraq -- 14 on a single-day, one of the largest one-day losses of any Marine battalion.
--Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Chaplain Lt. William Hlavin and Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Eric Dickerson baptize a Marine. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps