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Silver Eagles take to skies

By Pfc. Jason D. Mills | | July 14, 2006

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The Silver Eagles of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 left this week from the Air Station for a six-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.

While deployed, the squadron will participate in several joint exercises involving the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the Thailand Air Force and the U.S. Air Force.

“While we are out there we will get to train with foreign militaries, Japanese F-15’s and many other operational based scenarios,” said Capt. Mike Barnett, a pilot with VMFA-115.

Throughout the deployment, the Silver Eagles will also conduct training in the countries of Japan and South Korea and simulate air support to military forces on the ground.

“While we are deployed we will continue to train in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat,” Barnett said.

Mainland Japan, Okinawa, and Thailand are just some of the places that the Silver Eagles will visit during their deployment, according to Maj. Keith Topel, the assistant operations officer of VMFA-115.

The deployment is part of a scheduled rotation, called the Unit Deployment Program, in which units deploy to ensure  a forward deployed presence in Asia.

“This will be the squadron’s first UDP since 2001,” said Maj. Keith Topel, the assistant operations officer for VMFA-115.

However, the Silver Eagles are no stranger to UDPs, from 1987 through 2001 the squadron exclusively participated in the UDP.

Nearing the end of 2001, though, the Silver Eagles were designated a carrier squadron. In March 2003, the Silver Eagles  participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom while deployed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, delivering more than 150 tons of ordnance.

In October 2004, the squadron again deployed aboard the Truman for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, providing close air support and overhead security in support of Iraq’s democratic elections.

Now the Silver Eagles are being called upon once again to serve in the UDP.

“A deployment like this lets you know your strong points and your weak points,” said Sgt. James Hill, the administration non-commissioned officer in charge of VMFA-115. “It lets you know what needs to be worked on.”

While on this deployment, unlike serving in Iraq or aboard a carrier, most of the duties that the Marines will be carrying out on a day-to-day basis will resemble their work here at Fightertown, according to Sgt. Aaron Boerger, the career retention specialist for VMFA-115.

“We are going to be doing a lot of the same things that we are doing now, however, as a Marine you learn more every time that you deploy,” Boerger said.

It’s a bittersweet goodbye for some of the Marines of VMFA-115 as they go on another deployment.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about leaving,” Boerger said. “My wife is due to have our first child, but at the same time it’s good to support and be there with my unit.”

For others, it’s a new adventure.

“It’s my first deployment,” said Pfc. Michael Dunson, a small arms repair technician. “I’m looking forward to getting to see different countries and their cultures.”

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