Checkerboards prepare to deploy

27 Feb 2009 | Sgt. Gina C. Rindt

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 is currently preparing for their upcoming carrier deployment. In preparation, the squadron has completed a detachment to Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., and several Marines and sailors from the squadron are currently aboard the USS Harry S. Truman for additional training.

The Key West detachment allowed the Marines and sailors of VMFA-312 an opportunity to begin working with their sister squadrons in Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW-3). Specifically, the pilots worked closely with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 air intercept controllers, which allowed the Checkerboards to test their combat systems and set standards for tactics within the Air Wing. These
standards will carry them through future work-ups and their deployment aboard the carrier.

“Due to the outstanding coordination between the Checkerboard maintenance department and operations department, the transition between detachment locations and our ability to employ the F/A-18 Hornet upon arrival makes every move seamless and effective as we transition to the carrier air wing.” said Maj. Daniel L. Berzack, the squadron’s operations officer.

Currently, several of the squadron’s Marines and sailors are training aboard the Truman. This training will give the pilots an opportunity to maintain familiarity with the carrier operating procedures. In addition, it will allow several maintenance Marines to complete their initial qualification to work on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and additional maintenance Marines will receive their final checker qualification, allowing them to be the last eyes to look over the aircraft prior to each launch.

“The training we receive is important for all the Marines in my shop because they will be exposed to an unfamiliar environment,” said Sgt. Nathan Harris, an aviation mechanic. “A lot of our Marines will need to know how to get around the boat during operations as well as being aware of potentially dangerous situations.”

While working aboard a carrier around various aircraft may provide a challenge to many of the unseasoned Marines, the experience is one many Marines look forward to.

“It’s helpful and overwhelming to be on the boat for the first time,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen Slykerman, an aviation ordnance technician. “Preparing for a long deployment is mentally and physically demanding, but good for us because it is hard to get the same experience when you’re not on the boat.”