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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Somerton native sets standard for Marines in Iraq

3 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

At age 12 Miguel A. Arballo saw something on television that would become a life goal for him.

The image of a Marine in a dress blue uniform stood out in his mind as he told himself, “That’s what I want to do.”

Arballo was born in San Luis, Mexico. In 1989, his family came to the United States, and in 1996, he became a citizen.

“In the recruiter’s office, seeing all those videos on what Marines do, the opportunity for travel and adventure motivated me to become a Marine,” the 2000 Cibola High School graduate said. “They told me about all the training I would receive and the opportunities to see the world, and I saw that as a way to point my life in the right direction.”

On July 25, 2000, at the ripe young age of 17, the Somerton, Ariz., native took his first step to making his dream a reality when he stepped on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

Arballo completed basic training three months later and after Marine Combat Training, he attended the Motor Transportation Operator’s School at Fort Leonardwood, Mo.

In Missouri, he learned the basics of operating the Marine Corps’ array of vehicles, including the humvee and larger, heavier trucks.

When the duty station assignments for the Marines of his graduating class came out, Arballo said he was shocked and excited about his new orders. In January 2001, he was stationed in Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. with the Marines of ‘America’s Battalion,’ 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

“That’s where my opportunity to travel started,” he said. “I knew I was going to travel, but two months later we were on our first deployment. I thought to myself, ‘wow’ the travel thing is true, because as soon I got there, we were constantly on the move.”

During his three year tour with 3/3, Arballo traveled to Hawaii Australia, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, main-land Japan, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong on training evolutions and unit deployments.  

“I got what I wanted,” he said. “I have been to almost every country in South East Asia.”

During his first year with the Marines of 3/3, something happened to our nation that Arballo would never forget. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 would change his perspective on his military service.

“Because of the time difference, we were all asleep when the attacks occurred, we found out later,” he recalled. “That’s when I realized, this isn’t just about travel, all that training we have been doing is for something far more important.”

After that dark day, the battalion set its focus on continued training. The Marines had new motivation, and Arballo said the Marines took their jobs a lot more seriously.

“Although I never deployed with 3/3 to support the Global War on Terrorism, the training I received there would help me out a lot when I eventually did,” he said.

Arballo would indeed deploy to support the fight against terrorism. After his tour with ‘America’s Battalion,’ he received orders to Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., to serve with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371.

“They told me that MWSS-371 was a non-deployable unit,” he said. “Seven days later, we were packing for Kuwait.”

Arballo and a small detachment of Marines from MWSS-371 left for Kuwait in February, 2004, to provide heavy equipment and logistical support to unload a flood of gear and vehicles arriving into the country to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Once we settled in, we split up the detachment into two shifts,” he recalled. “For six weeks straight we unloaded cargo from ships. I have never seen so many vehicles and gear in one place. As soon as we finished unloading one ship, there was one to take its place.”

Once he returned from Kuwait, Arballo didn’t find much time to rest. When his detachment returned in April 2004, they began training for a new mission and another deployment to support the stability and security of the people of Iraq.

“When we got back we got right into training,” he said. “Being in motor-T, we focused mainly on convoy operations.”

Arballo was placed on the squadron’s advanced party, and arrived in Iraq on January 31. Spending a few short days at the squadron’s headquarters in Al Taqaddum, Arballo, and a small detachment, came to support airfield and base camp operations here.

“Besides accomplishing our primary mission here, we support the ground forces here and in the surrounding area,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to support our fellow Marines directly. We trained to do a mission and we are doing it well.”

Since his arrival here, Arballo has been the detachment’s operations chief and platoon sergeant, responsible for the tasking and tracking of missions and the morale and welfare of his Marines.

“I have had a great opportunity to pass on all the things I have learned and been taught as a young Marine to my Marines,” he said. “It’s been a great lesson in leadership. I was blessed with great leaders as a young Marine, and now it’s my turn to lead Marines.”

Recently, he has been serving with the detachment’s explosive ordnance disposal team, providing security for the technicians as they combat improvised explosive devices in the surrounding area.

“They needed a solid leader, because the mission is so important,” he said. “Our EOD team is out there a lot. By providing security for them while they work, it allows them to focus on their mission instead of their security.”

Due to return to his fiancé and daughter in August, Arballo is preparing for his wedding next spring and looking forward to finishing up college and earning a degree in criminal justice.

“The Marine Corps has given me many great opportunities,” he said. “I have been able to see the world, develop leadership skills and serve my country during a time of need.”

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at*

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing