Moonlighters on the move

7 Jun 2002 | 1st Lt. Joshua Kiihne

Marines of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332, have been on the move since they left Beaufort in mid January. They recently arrived in Brunei, with a detachment of four F/A-18D fighter jets and a small contingent of maintenance Marines to participate in the annual Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training (LF CARAT) Brunei 2002 Exercise.

The annual deployment consists of an Amphibious Ready Group and a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force.  During the deployment, the Marines and Sailors visit numerous countries in Southeast Asia including Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines providing cooperative training between U.S. and foreign forces and allowing the U.S. to maintain strong ties with foreign countries in strategic locations.  This was the first time Marine Air assets were used in support of LF CARAT.

The Moonlighters, in cooperation with the "Sumos" of Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 152, demonstrated in-flight refueling on a KC-130 as the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) watched from inside the tanker and listened to the communications involved. 

The Royal Brunei Air Defense Regiment participated using Rapier and Mistral surface-to-air missile systems targeting Moonlighter jets running both low altitude target runs and medium altitude target attacks. Finally, the Moonlighters participated in the LF CARAT Air Combat Element static display. 

While the parking ramp was filled with CH-53Ds, a KC-130T, and a P-3C, the Moonlighter F/A-18D was the highlight.  Local junior high school students, RBAF pilots and maintainors, and even soldiers from the Australian infantry asked questions and took a look in the cockpit of the jet fighter.

The country of Brunei is a small cutout on the Northwest side of the island of Borneo, about 600 miles Southeast of Vietnam.  About the size of Delaware, Brunei is surrounded on three sides by Malaysia and on the fourth by the South China Sea.  Brunei's economy is based on the rich oilfields both in the country and off the coast, making it one of the richest nations, per capita, in the world.

Due to this wealth, the people of Brunei enjoy free health care and education, no taxes, and subsidized housing.  The Sultan is the sovereign leader and enjoys living in his own palace of 1,777 rooms. 

A Muslim nation, Brunei is filled with golden domed mosques, prayer broadcast over speakers five times a day, and no pork or alcohol. 

"Both sides learned much from LF CARAT Brunei 2002," said Major Adam Tharp, Moonlighter executive officer and detachment officer in charge.  "For the first time, the RBAF was able to see how both rotary and fixed wing support adds to the USMC's combined arms doctrine.  The country of Brunei has been extremely generous in supporting LF CARAT, and the RBAF has laid out the red carpet for us."