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Last active duty FA-18D Hornets leave Miramar

Story by Sgt. Matthew P. Shelato
Story Identification Number: 2003219133314

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR(February 7, 2003) -- A chain of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 aircraft filled the sky over San Diego as the last active duty FA-18D Hornets left Miramar Friday in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Though they have only been back in the United States for three months, the Green Knights say they are ready to go once more "unto the breach," to the United States Central Command Area of Operations.

"We're ready to go do our job again," said Capt. Elika S. Bowmer, FA-18D Pilot, VMFA(AW)-121.

Bowmer said the pilots have several "hops" to make on the way to reach their final destination, and each of those flights lasts several hours.

The flights aren't exactly like the weekend road trips you may be used to. There are no breaks at roadside truck stops.

However, Bowmer said the pilots bring along snacks and food items, such as beef jerky, to tide them over during the long flights.

"Any food we would bring with us would have to be something that's not going to get loose and roll around in the aircraft while in flight," he said.

Among other stresses a pilot and aircrew may face during a long flight, Bowmer said there is also the problem of acclimatization. The Green Knights may travel nearly halfway around the world, and could spend time in different climate zones before reaching their final destination.

Flying missions far from home can be difficult not only on the Marine assigned to a deployed flying squadron, but it can also be challenging for their families.

"Some of us have been deployed nine months out of the last 20. It's hard, but it makes families like mine stronger," said Capt. Alejandro R. House, FA-18D pilot, VMFA(AW)-121.

Unlike previous deployments, this time the Marines of VMFA(AW)-121 don't know exactly when they may return, or even what their mission may be. But, the morale of the squadron is high and the Marines have a can-do attitude, even after the large amount of deployed time the unit has built up this year.

However House added, "We're looking forward to getting back."

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