MCAS BEAUFORT, SC -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 departed for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea aboard U. S. S. Harry S. Truman CVN-75 November 27.
Prior to shoving off, VMFA-312 aircrew conducted a three-day cyclic operations exercise off the coast of Norfolk, Va., preparing themselves for the long sea voyage.
The squadron set to sea with 12 F/A-18 hornet fighter attack jets and approximately 200 Marines, including a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 detachment, who will assist them with any technical problems.
Although much of the deployment is classified and tentative, the squadron is preparing to be involved in several exercises, including a Joint Task Force exercise in Tunisia in mid-December.
They are also anticipating an exercise with the Royal Jordanian Air Force in early February 2001 and may be tasked with defending the southern no-fly zone near Iraq. No matter what the task, the squadron is prepared to follow through with their duties as a forward deployed force, according to LtCol. Martin G. Rollinger, VMFA-312 executive officer.
"We aren't sure of what to expect yet; I'm not a fortune teller," said Rollinger. "But no matter what, we all joined for the adventure and to defend our country's flag, so you can expect that we'll be prepared."
Many of the VMFA-312 Marines set goals for the deployment - some long and some short.
"This is my first time," said SSgt. T. V. Williams, of VMFA-312 communications and navigation. "I've been to Beiruit, Lebanon and Japan, but never aboard ship. Hopefully, I'll see some combat action there." "My main goal during this deployment is to go out and come back with thirty-three Marines," said SSgt. Eric Kelly, VMFA-312 powerlines division chief.
Kelly's reason for concern stems from the fact that his Marines work daily and nightly only feet from a floating landing pad, making an aircraft carrier one of the most dangerous working environments in the world.
"We'll be working twelve hour shifts, seven days a week for the duration of the long and arduous deployment," said Kelly. "It's dangerous work, but, the hardest part about it is leaving my family."
The sense of excitement and adventure, and feelings of woe for leaving loved ones were shared throughout the squadron. Nevertheless, Marines were there to comfort each other. Two of them from VMFA-312 airframes, Cpl. Scott Keller, native of Cullman, Ala. and his pal LCpl. Levi Norton of Monument, Colo. kept the morale and spirits high as they paraded around the hangar, inspiring their fellow Marines to share in the excitement.
"We have to keep a good attitude about everything," said Keller. "Because, we've only got each other."
When it came time to depart, the Marines kissed their wives, husbands and children farewell for the next six months. For those who have done it before and for those who deployed for the first time, there was no doubt the Marines were prepared - their families too.