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Hawks depart Fightertown, head for WESTPAC

9 Jul 2004 | Lance Cpl. C. Alex Herron Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

The Hawks of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 will rejoin the Unit Deployment Program with a tour of the Western Pacific.

The F/A-18 Hornet squadron are scheduled to depart Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Friday and Monday for MCAS Iwakuni, Japan for a scheduled six-month deployment. The Hawks are replacing the Thunderbolts of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, who will return to the Air Station later this month.

A UDP is a regularly scheduled deployment that rotates squadrons and units into and out of the Western Pacific region. MCAS Iwakuni hosts the units while they participate in training exercises and operations in the area.

The deployment marks the first time that the Hawks have deployed since Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We have had an extremely high turnover since OIF,” said Capt. P.L. Fitzgerald, administration officer, VMFA(AW)-533. “This whole past year has been dedicated to training our new joins and getting them up to speed on how we operate. Our senior leadership has been very hands-on with the training of our younger Marines preparing them for our UDP.”

The Hawks have not been relaxing in Beaufort since their return from OIF. With two demanding exercises, they have remained busy throughout the past year.

“We went out to El Centro, Calif. for an air-to-ground exercise and a double combined arms exercise earlier this year,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve been on a pretty robust training schedule. We’ve been training multiple aircrew and forward air control procedures.”

The Hawks will be making pit stops all across the Pacific Rim during the deployment. Many of the Marines are looking forward to the mixture of travel, work and fun.

“I can’t wait to see different places,” said Cpl. Ronald Bush, IMRL manager, VMFA(AW)-533. “I’m really excited about seeing Australia. I want to see the sights and how other cultures work.”