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Moonlighters: Fighter/ Attack Squadron of the Year

By Lance Cpl. Dane M. Horst | | August 18, 2006

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The Moonlighters of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 have been named the 2006 Marine Corps Aviation Association Fighter/Attack Squadron of the Year out of all 17 F/A-18 Hornet Squadrons in the Corps for their noteworthy performance from May 1, 2005 to April 30. This is the third time that the Moonlighters have received the Robert M. Hanson Award for setting the standard for Fleet Marine Force fighter attack squadrons in training and combat. “It’s fulfilling (for) VMFA(AW)-332 to be awarded this by the organization for our accomplishment,” said Lt. Col. David Wilbur, the Marine Aircraft Group 31 executive officer and former Moonlighter commanding officer. “This is recognition for all of the Marines of the squadron individual sacrifices and for the success we had as a team.”The award was established in 1969 in memory of Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Robert M. Hanson, a former Marine Fighter Squadron 215 pilot. Hanson was killed during World War II after shooting down 25 enemy aircraft.“What makes this award even more special is the competition from which the Moonlighters were selected, other Marine fighter squadrons, which are the best fighter squadrons in the world,” said Lt. Col. Samuel Kirby, the current commanding officer of the Moonlighters. The Moonlighters list of achievements is beyond compare, and includes becoming the first Marine tactical jet squadron ever to surpass 100,000 mishap-free flight hours in 2005. While deployed to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, from July 2005 to January they continued to build upon this record.“The Moonlighters distinguished themselves in combat through supporting the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and coalition operations by engaging enemy combatants,” said Col. Gary Graham, the Aviation Manpower Support branch head at Headquarters Marine Corps.An MCAA official agreed.“Flying more than 100,000 mishap-free hours is an incredible accomplishment taking into consideration their operation tempo,” said James Casey, the MCAA deputy executive director.This is the 18th time a MAG-31 squadron has earned the Hanson Award since it was established in 1968. “MAG-31 and the Air Station afforded us the resources and opportunities to train and prepare for that deployment, which in the end made us successful in supporting the Marines as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Wilbur said. VMFA(AW)-242 based at MCAS Miramar, Calif., was last year’s Hanson Award recipient. The award will be presented to the Moonlighters during the MCAA Reunion/Symposium Oct. 25-29 in Tyson’s Corner, Va.“The three main reasons the Moonlighters were chosen for this award is because the right Marines came together in a specific period of time, they were given the right opportunities to succeed, and the right guy was selected to write it up,” Wilbur said.
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