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Fighting Bengals deploy to Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200511883543
Story by Cpl. Anthony M. Guas

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC (Jan. 14, 2005) -- The Marines and Sailors of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 departed the Air Station for the Bengal’s first deployment to Iraq.

In groups of two, the Bengal’s 12 F/A-18 Hornets departed Tuesday, while the squadron’s main body departed Wednesday.

The Bengal’s first flew into Kuwait and later landed on an air base in Western Iraq.
Approximately 54 pilots left on Tuesday, while the main body consisted of 200 Marines.

“We are extremely motivated to get into the fight,” said Sgt. Maj. William Burton, squadron sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-224. “Everyone here has been training for years and we feel it’s our turn.”

The Bengal’s will be the first East Coast Hornets to deploy to Iraq. In Iraq the squadron will be in direct support of the Marines on the ground for almost seven months, according to 1st Lt. Michael Greene, unit information officer, VMFA(AW)-224.

“We know the nation is counting on us,” said Lt. Col. Will Thomas, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-224. “We are going on the offensive, hoping that our actions will prevent another attack at home.”

Before going to Iraq the Bengal’s prepared for six months. The squadron recently returned from Yuma, Ariz., where they participated in Exercise Desert Talon.

The Bengal’s participated in Exercise Desert Talon in December. The training consisted of providing convoy escort, close air support and urban close air support, according to Greene.

“We have had a very aggressive training plan in the last six months,” Thomas said. “At Desert Talon, we had integrated training with all of the aviation units that will be together.”

The Bengal’ s feel that the training throughout the six months and Desert Talon has been a benefit, according to Thomas.

“The face-to-face contact was helpful, because we’ve already bonded and formed relationships like a team,” Thomas said. “Personal relationships make the Marine Corps so special.”

While in Iraq the enlisted Marines will work 12 hours on and 12 off, while the pilots will have 24-hour flight operations, according to Greene. The pilots will be flying once a day on a two-hour average.

“Our goal is to perform our mission successfully,” Thomas said. “My personal goal is to bring every Marine and Sailor home as soon as that mission is complete.”


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