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Hawks fly back to Beaufort

By Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel | | September 19, 2013


Marines with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 met their awaiting families and friends upon returning to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Sept. 13. 

VMFA(AW)-533, also known as the Hawks, returned from a six-month deployment as part of the Unit Deployment Program in the Western Pacific. 

The UDP is an opportunity to increase the nation’s presence while training with our allies in the Western Pacific. Increased presence also improves our ability to respond to contingencies throughout the region. Air Station Marines benefit from deployments like these because it’s absolutely necessary to maintain a high standard of readiness. These deployments also help develop strong work habits to make sure aircraft are properly maintained to support the mission. 

“Throughout the deployment I watched the Marines reach high levels of stress but pull through as a team,” said Lt. Col. Kevin T. O’Rourke, the commanding officer of VMFA(AW)-533. “The squadron increased their ability to perform at a high level of proficiency under stress all while building unit cohesion. I am proud of my Marines, we have all come a long way.”

VMFA(AW)-533 worked hard and prepared to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force in the event the squadron would be needed to support any operation in the South Pacific, O’Rourke said.

Throughout the deployment, VMFA(AW)-533 increased their forward presence in the area improving the Marine Corps’ ability to respond to possible conflicts. 

“While deployed we performed a lot of training,” said Cpl. Michael Douglas, a hydraulic structural mechanic for VMFA(AW)-533. “We accomplished our mission each day and surpassed every goal we set. I have become close to these men and women and know that because of the deployment we will be able to work more efficiently together to accomplish our daily tasks here in Beaufort.”

Constant training and hard work were not the only things that helped build a lasting impact on the unit during the UDP. While in the South Pacific, VMFA(AW)-533 stopped at Iwo To, Japan, formerly known as Iwo Jima. Iwo To, was the site of one of World War II’s most impactful battles, which took the lives of 7,000 American troops.

“Being on the beach where so many Marines passed away was the most moving part of the deployment,” said Douglas. “Out of everything that the squadron went through, the stress and long working hours, being on Iwo Jima was the most influential part of the deployment. I will never forget everything I experienced while I was away and know this deployment will carry on with many in the squadron for the rest of our lives.”