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Thunderbolts return to Fightertown

1 Nov 2012 | Cpl. Rubin Tan

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (VMFA- 251) returned to Fight­ertown on Oct. 31,after supporting Operation En­during Freedom (OEF), maritime security opera­tionsand theater security cooperation operations from aboard aircraft car­rier USS Enterprise.

Duringthe past eight months, the squadron worked in conjunction with various Navy plat­forms within Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW-1) and also had opportunities to visit countries around the world.

“Having frequent port visits gave everyone the opportunity to experience various cultures around the world and also kept ev­eryone’s stress level lower by breaking the trend of working every day,” said Cpl. Christopher Reed, anavionics electrician with VMFA-251.

The Thunderbolts par­ticipated in more than 430 combat missions that cul­minated into a surplus of 2,600 combat flight hours in support of OEF. During this period, the “Guard­ians of the Sky” were the only Marine Fighter At­tack Squadron providing aerial support to coalition ground forces that were indirect contact with the enemy. The Thunderbolts flew over 4,000 hours throughout the deploy­ment, providing forward presence in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

“Knowing our jets were supporting Marines in Af­ghanistan gave me a sense of purpose andfurthered my desire to do my job in order to help maintain full mission capable aircraft,” said Reed, a Ponder, Tex­as, native.

The squadron was recognized by the com­mander of CVW-1 with the “Golden Wrench Award” in September for its hard work and professionalism. The award is given by the air wing every two months to a squadron that displays extraordinary work ethic, maintenance habits and performance. The Thun­derbolts’ 99 percent com­bat mission completion rate exemplified this high standard.

“The danger of our working environment does not disappear with the decrease of flight op­erations,” saidMaj. Shane Bursae, VMFA-251’s main­tenance safety officer and a native of Winter Park, Fla. “Now is when acci­dents happen; when your mind drifts from the task you are currently working on and that is when it is most dangerous.”

However through past actions of the Marines of VMFA-251, they have demonstrated motivation and safety throughsome of the toughest working environments to create a mishap free environment.

“The Thunderbolts of VMFA-251 are proud of their contribution to this last combat deployment of the USS Enterprise,” said Lt. Col. Simon Doran, the commanding officer for VMFA-251.“Their hard work, dedication and pro­fessionalism enabled the pilots of VMFA-251 to pro­vide close air support for our Marines and coalition ground forces.”

Supportive operations for 2nd Marine Expedi­tionary Force will resume for the Thunderbolts as they prepare for future de­ployments with CVW-1.