Two hundred U.S. Marines from the Weapons and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, left Kaneohe Marine Corps Base on Thursday en route to Okinawa, Japan.
The deployment is part of the Unit Deployment Program, which was established in 1977 to take advantage of the Western Pacific's diverse conditions and unfamiliar terrains.
"We'll have Marines that'll be training in a thick, triple canopy jungle-type environment and in more mountainous areas of the Pacific," said Lt. Col. Justin S. Dunne, the unit's commanding officer. "We'll be able to respond to contingencies as maybe directed, but also conduct bilateral training with other countries."
In all, 700 sailors and Marines will deploy to about a half-dozen Western Pacific nations as part of UDP, which in 2003 was reduced in scale because of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After spending more than 10 years fighting in desert and dry mountain terrain, Marines like Pfc. Allen Hillis are ready for a change.
"I just find it as a new challenge," said Hillis. "I'm excited for the jungle warfare training."
Although her husband won't be going off to war like he did in 2010, Danielle Hillis said saying goodbye is never easy, especially with a 3-week-old baby to take care of.
"I'm a wreck now just trying to keep my head up for her," said Danielle Hillis, as she held tiny Amberlyn Hillis in her arms. "You essentially have to go through it to understand what a family in the military goes through."
The UDP is separate from the eventual redeployment of 9,000 Marines from Okinawa. As many as 2,700 of those Marines are expected to move to Hawaii, with the remainder going to Guam and other Pacific bases.