VMFA-312 rolls out for WestPac

7 Sep 2007 | Cpl. Monique Smith

Approximately 200 Marines and sailors with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, also known as the Checkerboards, departed this week for a six-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.

The deployment is part of the Unit Deployment Program, which is a scheduled rotation in which units deploy to ensure a forward deployed presence in Asia. The Checkerboards will be turning over with Marines from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, who have been in Japan since March.

While deployed, the F/A-18 Hornet squadron will be participating in multiple exercises. One exercise the squadron will participate in will be Talon Vision at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

“This will be a two-week exercise doing what Marines do best,” said Maj. Glenn Takabayashi, the Checkerboards operations officer. “We will be participating in both day and night close-air-support and Forward Controller Airborne sorties. Additionally, we will be able to train on deep air-strike missions.”

Along with the Checkboards, approximately 40 additional Marines from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 will join the squadron.

“Our goal is to support Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and ultimately the Pacific Command,” Takabayashi said. “Beyond that, we have several internal goals all focused around training pilots and increasing the combat effectiveness of the Checkerboards. We will be qualifying or designating single-seat FAC(A)s, section leads, division leads, air combat tactics instructors, night systems instructors and mission commanders.”

While deployed, the squadron will have the opportunity to visit Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and possibly Australia, according to Capt. Casey Dalton, a Checkerboards pilot and administrative officer.”

“One of the motivating aspects of a six-month UDP is the opportunity to train in foreign countries with foreign air or ground forces,” Takabayashi said. “Depending on timing, this could be feast or famine for a deployed squadron.”

In preparation for the UDP, the squadron has gone through an extensive work-up process that began last year. Last February, the Checkerboards went to Yuma, Ariz., to conduct air-to-surface training. There, the squadron expended 643,000 pounds of ordnance and flew more than 500 hours, solidifying the squadrons air-to-surface capabilities. Additionally, the squadron also went to Eglin Air Force Base for two weeks, which was the culminating training event of their air-to-air phase.

“The squadron is constantly training to be combat ready,” Dalton said. “A lot of flying air-to-air and air-to-ground training as well as all of the maintenance that is performed on the jets daily is all training and preparation to deploy.”

In addition to making sure all of the Marines are up to date on all annual training, the Checkerboards have made sure their aircrafts are also ready for the deployment.

“We have been grooming our aircraft for the last several months,” Takabayashi said. “The excellence of our maintenance department really has allowed the squadron to train at a level as good or better than any other squadron in (MAG-31).”