MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- The Marauders of Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 82 left Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Oct. 15, bound for San Diego, where they will board the USS Abraham Lincoln for a six-month deployment.
The squadron’s eleven F/A-18 Hornets departed three months after returning from a tour aboard the USS Enterprise.
The squadron was ready and willing to get back to sea despite the short stay in Beaufort, according to Cmdr. Devon Jones, commanding officer, VFA-82.
“By nature of what we do, we’re flexible,” Jones said. “We answer the call when it comes.”
Part of that flexibility is being able to change operational schedules on a short notice, according to Jones. The Marauders put school and extra training aside to focus on preparations for combat operations.
“We expect to fly off the Lincoln at night a lot, which is very different from what we do in Beaufort,” Jones said. “We had to increase our field carrier landing practice in Beaufort to prepare for this.”
The Marauders normally operate from the Atlantic Ocean, but this deployment will shift the squadron from the Carrier Air Group One command to the West Coast-based CAG-2.
“We are filling a spot that was open in the deployment schedule,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pete Catalano, pilot and maintenance officer, VFA-82. “The call came and we answered.”
Their squadron was tagged for the role because of the unit’s outstanding level of readiness, according to Jones.
“We have no critical shortfalls in any area, so that’s part of why they picked us,” Jones said. “Our squadron is healthy, cruise experienced and able to bring a full complement of aircraft and personnel to the Lincoln.”
The deployment could be one of the last for the 37-year-old squadron, which was dog-eared to be disbanded by the Navy in August. While the deployment is likely to put the squadron’s stand-down on hold, the Sailors aren not looking any farther ahead than they need to, according to Catalano.
“We look at the disestablishment as a completely separate issue,” Catalano said. “We have to do that to focus on the cruise. When we get back, we’ll worry about what’s in our immediate future after that.”
While the unit may be prepared for the deployment in military terms, the families are carrying a difficult burden, according to Jones.
“This was a big turnaround, and it’s hard on families,” Jones said. “But everybody is adjusting well. Anybody who has been around for a while knows you can be tapped anytime.”
The Marauders expect to be a valuable asset to the Lincoln team, according to Jones.
“It’s the same threat, the same mission and the same operations,” Jones said. “I expect to blend right in and contribute to the team.”