MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- A detachment of more than 70 Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 traveled from the Air Station Monday for a seven-month deployment to Camp Al Asad, Iraq.
The Sweathogs departed Fightertown by bus to Cherry Point, N.C., and will continue on to Iraq as augments to their sister squadron, MWSS-272.
“We have four MWSS’ on the East Coast and we send augments to whoever is in Iraq,” said Maj. Jason Pratt, the MWSS-273 operations officer. “The Marines will go out there and become part of the squadron.”
The Sweathogs have been supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom since the beginning, according to Pratt.
“We have been continuously sending 10-70 Marines in detachments out there,” Pratt said. “The squadron went over there from February to August.”
While deployed the detachment will provide a wide range of aviation ground support to other units, to include airfield communications, weather services, expeditionary airfield services, aircraft rescue and firefighting, aircraft and ground refueling, essential engineer service, motor transport, messing, chemical defense, security and law enforcement, airbase commandant functions and explosive ordnance disposal.
“We are planning on taking Marines from a wide range of (military occupational specialties) out there,” said Master Sgt. Terrance Meehan, the MWSS-273 engineer operations chief. “We are taking the butchers, bakers and the candlestick makers.”
While in Iraq, the Sweathogs primary assignment will be to help MWSS-272 complete their mission, according to Meehan.
“Once we arrive, we will go to the individual sections,” Meehan said. “The majority will be in Al Asad, but some may go to Al Qaim (a forward operating base near the Syrian border). I may not see 70 percent of my Marines.”
While in Iraq, the Marines will perform their jobs just as if they were in Beaufort, according to Pratt.
“The only difference is that here nobody is shooting at them,” Pratt said. “Other than that they will do everything the same.”
For a majority of the Marines chosen to go on this detachment, it will be the first action they will see in Iraq, according to Meehan.
“We started submitting names in March,” Meehan said. “We wanted to give Marines who had been out there a chance to relax, while giving those who have not gone a chance to be part of the tip of the spear.”
Another factor that affected the decision of choosing Marines was the Marine Corps policy on deployments, according to Pratt.
“According to Marine Corps policy, Marines are supposed to have six to seven months to recover from a deployment,” Pratt said. “We would like to give them a year, but that’s really hard.”
Before deploying to Iraq, the Sweathogs spent four months training, including a couple of weeks in Yuma, Ariz., according to Meehan.
“We participated in Desert Talon to help get us ready,” Meehan said. “It was mainly desert warfare training. We also had an opportunity to marry up with companies and sections that we will deal with out there.”
While in Desert Talon, the Sweathogs trained with a Marine Fighter Training Squadron and participated in tactical convoy operations, according to Meehan.
“The Marines did a great job out there,” Meehan said. “I feel we are really prepared to go out there. We came together as a unit and everyone is motivated and anxious to go.”
Although many of the Marines are reluctant to leave their families, they feel ready to take their part in support of OIF, according to Lance Cpl. James Daniel Moore, a supply clerk with MWSS-273.
“I feel very comfortable going out there,” Moore said. “It shouldn’t be too bad out there. If feels bad to leave our families behind, but it has to be done.”