Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. --
Marines and sailors from Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 returned to Fightertown April 23 and 25 from a seven-month deployment to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Families waited in eager anticipation as they watched the commercial airliner taxi down the flightline towards the hangar. As the Marines and sailors stepped out of the plane and down the stairs, they were ordered to go see their families. A mass wave of people surged forward, reuniting with loved ones after seven months.
“It’s great to be around my family again,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Smiley, a bulk fuel technician with the air operations company. “To be able to see my wife and kids again is really great. I’ve missed them so much. This day can’t get any better.”
While deployed, the squadron operated out of Al Asad Air Base, Iraq and provided aviation ground support for Multi-National Forces West in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. They conducted numerous patrols across the province and sent out engineers to rebuild and refortify Iraqi structures and camps.
“They conducted more than three hundred thousand miles of combat convoys,” explained Lt. Col. William Bowers, the squadron commanding officer. “I, honestly, could not be more proud of my Marines and sailors. They really did a fantastic job at integrating air and ground forces to rise to any challenge that the Marine Air Ground Task Force asked of them. They did a great job, and I am very happy to lead them.”
Although the squadron was away from home during the winter holidays, they found ways to keep morale high. They held events such as a pie-throwing contest and a “gong show” night.
“It was tough keeping the Marines and sailors engaged throughout the holidays, but that’s to be expected,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Davis, the engineer company first sergeant. “I mean, they’re a long way from home and they missed their families. We found ways to keep morale up though. That pie-throwing contest was just plain crazy. Junior Marines were almost fighting for pies to throw in the staff noncommissioned officer’s faces. It was a lot of fun to watch. Then, we had the “gong show”, where they could imitate anyone in the unit they wanted. It was pretty funny seeing some of the impersonations they had. Those two things really stood out to make sure that everyone stayed motivated.”
With the success of the deployment and the feeling of relief from seeing family and friends again, an elated sense of joy filled the open hangar as they waited for them to be dismissed.
“It’s great to finally be home to see my loved ones,” Davis said. “It’s really a great feeling to come home from deployment. Your pride comes out and you stick your chest out because you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s really been a good day and I think it’s going to keep getting better.”