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America's Squadron sails home

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/3/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. David Revere

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan(April 6, 2004) -- Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 returned April 6 after supporting Marine Aircraft Group 12 and Marine Air Control Group 18 in training exercises for more than a month in Yechon, Korea.

Nearly 200 service members deployed March 4 to Yechon where the squadron began work on the base camp. Within a week, the Marines prepared everything necessary for the sustainment of more than 600 service members.

"MWSS-171's job is to have it all ready for them so when they arrive they can set their sea bags and alice packs on a cot and go straight to work," said Capt. Pat Vongsavanh, MWSS-171 airfield operations commanding officer.

After setting up tents, utilities and communication equipment for five different sites, the squadron began training exercises with the Korean Air Force.

"One of our goals was to learn how to effectively link the 16th Fighter Wing's ground operations center to our base defense operations center in order to develop a common operational picture," said Maj. Sean C. Killeen, MWSS-171 operations officer.

For 10 days, the squadron practiced reactionary force drills alongside the Korean Air Force with armored humvees and fire teams.

"MWSS-171 not only supports the flying units," said Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Tensley, MWSS-171 first sergeant. "We're able to set up a perimeter and provide rear security. Every Marine in '171 has to be able and capable of protecting themselves. Someone has to provide rear security defense."

Tensley said he appreciated the opportunity to train with allies.

"I think being able to combine the (Koreans) and Marines allows us learn how they train and see what they would do in any given situation. It also allows for them to see how we train," he said.

The squadron had the opportunity to experience Korea aside from military exercises. Marines enjoyed cultural tours and visits to homes for disadvantaged Korean youth.

"The commanding general has placed a very high priority on community relationship projects in Korea," said Navy Lt. Timothy Gault, MWSS-171 chaplain. "It's seen as critical to maintaining good friendship in Southeast Asia."

Gault oversaw the squadron's donation of clothes, food, hygiene supplies and projects for the youth centers.

Whether out in town, or on combined exercises, numerous friendships were born during the deployment.

"Just hanging out with these guys has built good relationships," said Lance Cpl. Phil Mckaughan, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron military policeman. "They don't speak fluent English, but we have a translator that we use a lot."

Regardless of language issues, the Foal Eagle exercise strengthened bonds with an important U. S. ally.

"This is the force that we're going to go to combat with should it become necessary," said Killeen. "The opportunity to learn how they do business and for them to learn how we do business has been invaluable."

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