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Marines with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 returned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort July 11, after a six month deployment to the Western Pacificin support of the Unit Deployment Program. The UDP is designed to balance strategic capabilities in the Pacific theater to train with allies, respond to crises and promote security and cooperation across the region.

Photo by Cpl. John Wilkes

Fighting Bengals fly back to Fightertown

18 Jul 2014 | Cpl. John Wilkes

Approximately 200 Marines with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, also known as the Fighting Bengals, along with Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, returned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort after a six-month deployment, July 11.

The Fighting Bengals conducted a Western Pacific deployment to Iwakuni, Japan, and worked alongside numerous units from the Marine Corps and other foreign military allies.

“We did standard operations and conducted training exercises with allies,” said Master Sgt. Robert Sanders, the maintenance chief with VMFA(AW)-224. “It was a great deployment; we got a lot of great training and came back with more experienced Marines.”

While the Marines were deployed, their spouses were able to participate in various Marine Corps Family Team Building activities such as deployment workshops, support groups, family events and events for children.

“Although deployments are difficult, it helps to stay busy and communicate with your spouse as often as you can,” said Kim Blye, spouse of Sgt. Harold Blye, an imagery analysis specialist with VMFA(AW)-224. “The tools provided by MCFTB helped a lot and kept us busy.”

It is the job of the unit’s family readiness officer to make sure families are taken care of at all times, including deployments, according to Jennifer Morrow, the FRO for VMFA(AW)-224. 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 very successful with the Marines being able to complete multiple mini deployments, focus on developing and progressing (in their job fields),” Sanders said.

“VMFA(AW)-224 did a phenomenal job on their deployment,” said Col. Bill Lieblein, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 31. “They went out there with 12 aircraft and approximately 200 Marines and came back with the same. They did a fantastic job representing MAG-31.”