MCAS Beaufort --
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (VMFA- 251) returned to Fightertown on Oct. 31,after supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), maritime security operationsand theater security cooperation operations from aboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
Duringthe past eight months, the squadron worked in conjunction with various Navy platforms within Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW-1) and also had opportunities to visit countries around the world.
“Having frequent port visits gave everyone the opportunity to experience various cultures around the world and also kept everyone’s stress level lower by breaking the trend of working every day,” said Cpl. Christopher Reed, anavionics electrician with VMFA-251.
The Thunderbolts participated in more than 430 combat missions that culminated into a surplus of 2,600 combat flight hours in support of OEF. During this period, the “Guardians of the Sky” were the only Marine Fighter Attack Squadron providing aerial support to coalition ground forces that were indirect contact with the enemy. The Thunderbolts flew over 4,000 hours throughout the deployment, providing forward presence in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
“Knowing our jets were supporting Marines in Afghanistan gave me a sense of purpose andfurthered my desire to do my job in order to help maintain full mission capable aircraft,” said Reed, a Ponder, Texas, native.
The squadron was recognized by the commander of CVW-1 with the “Golden Wrench Award” in September for its hard work and professionalism. The award is given by the air wing every two months to a squadron that displays extraordinary work ethic, maintenance habits and performance. The Thunderbolts’ 99 percent combat mission completion rate exemplified this high standard.
“The danger of our working environment does not disappear with the decrease of flight operations,” saidMaj. Shane Bursae, VMFA-251’s maintenance safety officer and a native of Winter Park, Fla. “Now is when accidents happen; when your mind drifts from the task you are currently working on and that is when it is most dangerous.”
However through past actions of the Marines of VMFA-251, they have demonstrated motivation and safety throughsome of the toughest working environments to create a mishap free environment.
“The Thunderbolts of VMFA-251 are proud of their contribution to this last combat deployment of the USS Enterprise,” said Lt. Col. Simon Doran, the commanding officer for VMFA-251.“Their hard work, dedication and professionalism enabled the pilots of VMFA-251 to provide close air support for our Marines and coalition ground forces.”
Supportive operations for 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force will resume for the Thunderbolts as they prepare for future deployments with CVW-1.