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Last 9th Marines battalion deactivates at Lejeune

April 8, 2015 (Photo Credit: Cpl. Shawn Valosin, II Marine Expeditionary Force)

The battalion of the Marine Corps' most recent Medal of Honor recipient was deactivated last week in a ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The colors of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines were cased April 1 as part of a strategy to reduce the size of the force following war time. Famous members of the unit include retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who was awarded the Medal of Honor last summer for heroism during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.

The unit known as the "Hell in a Helmet" battalion received a moving sendoff from 2nd Marine Division commander Maj. Gen. Brian Beaudreault.

"This isn't a somber day; this is a day to celebrate the accomplishments [of 2/9] and to honor the sacrifice of those that aren't in our ranks," Beaudreault said, according to a news release. "You were well-led, sustained high readiness and increased your readiness in an area of amphibious operations that had not been done in recent times. The reputation that you have established throughout the Pacific is one that you can take great pride in."

The battalion's last commander, Lt. Col. Nicholas Davis, hailed the unit's history, which included participation in conflicts spanning from World War II to Marjah, Afghanistan. When the infantry battalion was activated in 1942 as part of the 2nd Marine Division, Davis said the future had been uncertain but the mettle of the Marines was clear.

"It was just going to be a matter of time, in places like Bougainville, the northern Solomons, Guam and Iwo Jima, that it was written in blood, 'Hell in a Helmet,'" he said, according to the release.

The unit has been home to six Medal of Honor recipients and three future Marine Corps commandants, but may be best-known now as the unit with which Carpenter deployed to Marjah in 2010. During that deployment, he jumped on an enemy grenade to save a friend and fellow Marine. That act of heroism would earn him the military's highest honor.

The battalion is the last of the 9th Marines battalions to shutter as the Marine Corps continues its post-war drawdown.

Like other 9th Marines units, 2/9 is a "break glass in time of war battalion," said Lt. Col. Michael Styskal, one of 2/9's former commanders who led the unit during a 2011-2012 deployment to Marjah, in a Marine Corps video.

The deactivation of 2/9 followed that of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines in August 2014 and 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in July 2013. The units had an extensive history of deactivating and reactivating in support of Marine Corps mission requirements; in fact, when the three battalions were reactivated separately to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were assigned to already active Marine regiments.

Thus, 3/9 attached to 2nd Marines; 1/9 became part of 8th Marines, and 2/9 fell under 6th Marines. The 9th Marines Regimental Headquarters was never activated.

The activation of 2/9 in 2007 marked the fourth time the unit had been reassembled to serve the needs of the Corps. In the eight years the battalion has been active since then, its elements have deployed once to Iraq and thrice to Afghanistan.

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