MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC --
Approximately 175 Marines and three corpsmen with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, also known as the Silver Eagles, along with 60 augments with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, returned to the Air Station after a six-month deployment, Friday.
The Silver Eagles conducted a Western Pacific deployment to Iwakuni, Japan and worked alongside numerous units from the Marine Corps, Air Force and other foreign military allies.
“We did standard operations and conducted ambassador relations with allies,” said Capt. Stewart Wittel, a VMFA-115 pilot. “Also, during the deployment, we were able to conduct inter-service training, large force exercises and the Cobra Gold exercise.”
The inter-service training allowed the Marines and sailors to work with the Royal Thai Air Force and go on mini deployments to Kadena Air Base, Japan and Korat, Thailand.
During the deployment, the Silver Eagles and the Stingers did basic squadron training, increased air crew qualifications and was the first squadron in the Marine Corps to be fully equipped with the F/A-18 Hornets A++.
The F/A-18 Hornet A++ modification is an updated version of the F/A-18 Hornet with the latest and greatest avionic upgrades, according to Capt. James Berard, the VMFA-115 embarkation officer.
“Even though we didn’t train with new equipment, we were able to increase qualifications and successfully train with foreign military on mini deployments,” Berard said.
While the Marines and sailors were deployed, their spouses were able to participate in various activities such as a family holiday lunch, bowling day and, before the Marines returned, they held a “Welcome Home” banner-making party, according to Jimmie Woods, the VMFA-115 family readiness officer.
“Although I had mixed emotions about leaving my wife here during the deployment, she handled it well with the help of the (spouses) working together,” said Lance Cpl. Marcus Power, a VMFA-115 aviations operator. “During the deployment, it was easy to keep in contact and made things easier knowing she was OK.”
It is the job of the unit’s FRO to make sure families are taken care of at all times, including deployments, according to Woods. Family readiness officers are non-deployable, so they can be with service members families and host activities to keep them in touch with their loved ones during challenging times.
“The deployment was, overall, very successful with the Marines being able to complete multiple mini deployments, focus on developing and progressing (in their job fields) and maintain a partnership with Japan,” Berard said.