MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- The Crusaders of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 returned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort recently, completing a six-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.
The squadron departed Fightertown for the Western Pacific deployment in January and replaced VMFA (AW)-533 as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
“It was a total team effort by all the Marines out there,” said Sgt. Maj. Larry W. Morris Sr., the VMFA-122 sergeant major. “They came together very well and it was a pleasure to watch them at work everyday.”
A deployment is a good way to measure a unit’s ability to work away from home, according to Morris.
“We had a lot of young Marines join the squadron before leaving,” Morris said. “It was great to see them get the tutelage from the seasoned Marines, then take the ball and run.”
While deployed the Crusaders pilots conducted air-to-air combat training with Air Force F-15 Eagles and F-16 Vipers.
“There was a lot of good training,” said Capt. Robert Allen, the aviation safety officer for VMFA-122. “We did a lot of coalition and joint training.”
The pilots practiced their basic fighter and air combat maneuvering, with the Air Force.
“It’s great to train and fight against F-15s and F-16s,” Allen said. “That type of training makes us better pilots.”
In addition to honing their air-to-air skills, the squadron’s pilots conducted various operations in Japan, Korea and Guam. The Crusaders participated in Operation Foal Eagle at Cheong Ju Air Base, Korea; Jungle Shield at Anderson Air Base, Guam and Hollandia Kunsan Air Base, Korea.
The Crusaders got the chance to practice with live ordnance while conducting air-to-ground training in Okinawa, Japan.
“We had a good time training and we got to drop some bombs,” Allen said. “It was better because we got to drop live bombs, we can’t do that on the East Coast.”
While in Japan, the Crusaders also assisted in a search and rescue mission, according to Capt. Landon Allen, a pilot with VMFA-122.
“A Japanese ship ran aground south of Guam and (Maj. Sean Dewolfe and 1st Lt. Paul Holst) volunteered to help with the mission,” Allen said. “Maj. DeWolfe descended to survey the scene, while Lt. Holst stayed up high to relay information back to the Coast Guard.”
Aside from these missions, members of the squadron also took time to visit a local school to help foster community relations.
“We went to a public school and visited a class that was the equivalent of our kindergarten,” said Cpl. Chris Garrity, an aviation operations specialist for VMFA-122. “We sang Japanese versions of American songs and taught them some nursery rhymes. It was a great experience. I would have loved to gone more.”
Many of the Marines felt that Japan was a chance to learn a new culture, according to Lance Cpl. Jennifer NatesGomez, an administrative clerk with VMFA-122.
“It was exciting for me,” NatesGomez said. “I had never been overseas. The culture was so different. I had a good time.”
Although the Marines enjoyed their time in Japan, they are all relieved to be home, according to NatesGomez.
“I am so happy to be back,” NatesGomez said. “I enjoyed my time, but I am glad I’m home.”