Bengals roll out for WestPac

9 Mar 2007 | Lance Cpl. Monique Smith

Marines and sailors from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 departed early this week for a six-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.

The deployment is part of a scheduled rotation, called the Unit Deployment Program, in which units deploy to ensure a forward-deployed presence in Asia.

While deployed, the F/A-18D squadron will participate in several joint exercises involving the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the Royal Thailand Air Force and the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout the deployment the Bengals will also conduct air-to-ground training throughout Japan and Singapore.

A detachment of approximately 35 Stingers from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 will accompany the Bengals to provide intermediate-level maintenance.

“The squadron is ready for this deployment,” said Lt. Col. John Pylant, the executive officer for VMFA(AW)-224. “We’ve trained to make sure our basic core skills are proficient and we’re able to execute any task we’ll be called on to perform.”

Approximately 200 Bengals will relieve the Crusaders of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 who have been in Japan since September.

The deployment status won’t change the work efforts of the Bengals. Each shop has set its own goals to work hard and continue to train its Marines.

“While on this WestPac we will be qualifying one more plane captain and two more collateral duty inspectors,” said Staff Sgt. Kelly Hempel, the powerline staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

“Maintenance Marines are the workhorses in getting things done,” McLaughlin said. “Without them, the aircraft can’t fly.”

The squadron has also made sure all annual training requirements were fulfilled before the Marines leave.

“We have trained our personnel, across the board, near 100 percent for annual training,” said Staff Sgt. Paul McLaughlin, the squadron’s operation training chief. “The training that can be done throughout a year - we did in two months.”

In 2006, the squadron completed three detachments to train and refresh skills necessary for the deployment.

“We are very prepared,” Hempel said. “The past six months have been nothing but grooming and we will succeed.