Moonlighters prepare for the end of an era

19 Jan 2007 | Lance Cpl. Jenn Farr

Lance Cpl. Jenn Farr
Jet Stream Staff

The side of the hangar belonging to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 is slowly transitioning into an empty shell as the date set for deactivation of the squadron, activated in June 1943, draws near.

In April of last year Headquarters Marine Corps directed the deactivation of the squadron as a part of the Marine Aviation Transition Strategy helping to address current aircraft inventory and manpower challenges created by the aging F/A-18s which are no longer in production. 

The deactivation will allow the Corps to re-assign Moonlighter personnel and the squadron’s Hornets into other units throughout Marine Aviation and prepare the Corps for the Joint Strike Fighter, which is planned to begin replacing the Hornets by 2012.

Only six of the original 12 F/A-18 Hornets and 173 of the original 206 Marines assigned to VMFA(AW) –332 remain with the squadron, according to Capt. Lindsay Nelson, a weapons and sensors officer with the Moonlighters.

The jets have been sent as far away as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. and as close as VMFA(AW)-533.  The squadron’s personnel numbers are gradually decreasing with half of the aircrew already at their new duty stations and much of the remaining personnel transferring to deploying units, taking on special duty assignments or going on to training billets.

While the movements to redistribute the Marines, parts, jets and other assets of VMFA(AW) -332are being carried out, the Moonlighters are still conducting flight operations and maintenance, according to Nelson.

“The Marines are going to keep doing what they have been trained to do until the squadron deactivates,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mario Valle, the Moonlighters maintenance materials control officer. “I don’t think the full reality of the deactivation will fully hit the Marines until they see the colors cased.”

The squadron has no plans in effect for full squadron deployments but smaller detachments, which are yet to be decided, are still a possibility, according to Nelson.

By the end of February only four Hornets will remain in the hangar. The jets will stop flying all together on March 1 and be distributed to their new squadrons. Meanwhile, Marines are taking advantage of the reduced flight schedule before deactivation to knock out annual training.

“A lot of our Marines are going to the rifle and pistol ranges, getting their swim qualification and taking the Basic Skills Test,” said Valle. “We’re trying to set everything up so that future squadrons will receive Marines fully trained for the fiscal year.”

With the deactivation ceremony and a 3.32-mile motivational run scheduled for March 30, the Marines are maintaining a positive attitude about the upcoming changes, according to Nelson.

“With a little over a year and a half in the squadron, I have a lot of squadron pride,” said Sgt. Aaron Robinson, a maintenance administrative clerk with the Moonlighters. “I will miss everything about it, but I am ready to move on with whatever the Marine Corps has planned for me.”