MCAS BEAUFORT --
Marines, sailors and their families celebrated 70 years of war fighting excellence during Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312’s 70th anniversary marked by a rededication to colors ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, May 23.
The ceremony rededicated each campaign streamer VMFA-312, also nicknamed the Checkerboards, have earned since their inception in 1943.
The Checkerboards were commissioned on June 1, 1943 at Page Field aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Seventy years later VMFA-312 welcomed current and past Checkerboards and their families for a celebration of the long standing history of VMFA-312.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Joseph Reedy, the commanding officer of VMFA-312, spoke of the squadron’s illustrious history and attached each campaign streamer the squadron has earned to the squadron’s flag with conflicts ranging from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom.
The ceremony was open to all current and former Checkerboards, bringing together the history of VMFA-312 over displays from Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting, F/A-18 Hornets, and VMFA-312’s avionics, flight equipment and ordnance divisions.
Although each campaign streamer symbolizes a part history, to some the rededication to colors was more of a reunion than a ceremony.
"I don’t get around to Beaufort or Parris Island too often these days," said Norman Thums, who served as a radar technician with VMFA-312 from 1973 – 1976. "[Every time I come to Parris Island and Beaufort] I always stand up a little taller and a little straighter."
For Thums, a native of Savannah, Ga., the ceremony offered him a chance to see his old squadron and visit with friends.
"A friend of mine is here with me and was with [VMFA-312] for a couple of years," said Thums. "We went on the same deployments; he was going to the ceremony and picked me up on the way."
Thums still has memorabilia from his time with the Checkerboards that serves as a remembrance to his service.
"The maintenance officer and chief were on a missile shoot and they did it in grand enough style that I was awarded a shaving mug and a certificate of commendation for helping them," said Thums. "I still have the shaving mug with a checkerboard on it with my name and rank to this day."
Thums along with many others enjoyed the atmosphere at the ceremony and the accomplishments of the Checkerboards over the past 70 years.
"It’s just great to be around Marines. From everything I could see, it seems things have improved a lot," said Thums. "[The ceremony] was well done. Looks like things are in pretty shipshape around here."
VMFA-312 supports the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander by intercepting and destroying enemy aircraft under all-weather conditions and attacking and destroying surface targets.