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Al Asad welcomes VMFA(AW)-224 Hornets to Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20051196155
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht

AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan 19, 2005) -- Landing in succession, ‘tiger-striped’ F/A-18D Hornets with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 arrived here Jan. 15.

Fellow squadron members from their advanced party and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing personnel, who helped set the stage for their deployment to Iraq, met them soon after they taxied to their home at Al Asad.

Based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., the Marines and Sailors with VMFA(AW)-224 will be supporting ongoing operations in Iraq during their anticipated seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We are honored to be here to perform our squadron's mission in support of Marines and Coalition forces,” said Lt.Col. Wilbert E. Thomas, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-224, whose squadron started flying combat missions 48 hours after their arrival. “We are working for the (Combined Force Air Component Commander) for the next two months, but anticipate transferring to direct support of II MEF.”

The ‘Bengals’ also come to Iraq with a new squadron sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. William Burton, who joined VMFA(AW)-224 Jan. 7 following their pre-deployment preparations during the Desert Talon Exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

“The Marines of VMFA (AW) 224 are extremely excited and motivated to finally get a chance to participate in the Global War against Terrorism,” said Burton who looks forward to leading the enlisted Marines over the next few years and during the deployment. “They have trained intensively for months on end and have made large sacrifices, to ensure that the squadron was capable of performing it's mission.”

Burton, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps and a Harlem native in New York, said he looks forward to supporting the squadron in every way possible and to be there for every Marine to ensure mission success.

“These are truly professional Marines--officers as well as enlisted--who take pride in being the best at what they do,” said Burton.

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