VMFA(AW)-224 gears up for UDP

2 Feb 2007 | Cpl. John Jackson

The Bengals of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 have been very busy in the past few months preparing for their deployment to the Western Pacific in early March, as part of the Unit Deployment Program.

The deployment is part of a scheduled rotation in which units deploy to ensure a forward deployed presence in Asia. This UDP is a culmination of several training evolutions the Bengals participated in the last year.

“We first started our work-ups in preparation for the UDP about a year ago,” said Lt. Col. Lex Brown, the Bengals commanding officer. “We’ve been on three different detachments in the past year, working on several different missions.”

The Bengals started their training at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas in the beginning of 2006. While at Nellis, the Bengals flew with various different aircraft from different services, according to Brown.

In June of 2006, the squadron flew to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., where the squadron focused on air-to-ground training while dropping several thousand pounds of ordnance.

Once again the Bengals left Fightertown in November for their final detachment before deploying to the Western Pacific. The squadron visited MCAS Miramar, Calif., to once again focus on air-to-ground training as well as close-air support, according to Brown.

“Their performance has been outstanding,” Brown said. “Everyone is motivated for the upcoming deployment.”

Although the operational tempo here has not yet ramped up to their deployed optempo, the squadron still has a mission to accomplish before leaving the Air Station in March.

“Our main focus is to groom the jets for inspection, ensure the maintenance is up to speed and make sure everyone is combat efficient,” Brown said.

Even though the Bengals have been preparing for their UDP for about a year, new Marines continue to check into the squadron. To ensure every Bengal is combat ready, the squadron will have to train new pilots as well as enlisted Marines coming from their Military Occupational Specialty schools. 

“The big thing is to make sure the new guys are ready,” said Capt. Bob Williams, a Bengals pilot. “We have had several classes to get us all prepared.”

The squadron’s intense training schedule will continue until they hit the Pacific. 

“Over the past months we’ve worked long hours,” said Sgt. Timothy Burgwald, an ordnance technician. “Everyone sees the goal at the end of the tunnel. We know the long hours are worth it and we are all motivated about the WestPac.”