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Marauders return from western Pacific

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200537143916
Story by Cpl. Micah Snead

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. (March 4, 2005) -- More than 200 sailors from Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 82 returned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, March 1, after a five-month deployment to the western Pacific.

The squadron was welcomed home by friends and family who had expected them home a month sooner, but the sailors were delayed when they adjusted their mission to assist tsunami victims.

The Marauders deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, as part of Carrier Air Wing 2 in October, three months after returning from a tour aboard the USS Enterprise.

“The quick deployment was a challenge but the response from the squadron was outstanding,” said Cmdr. Devon Jones, commanding officer, VFA-82.

The WestPac was a first for the squadron, which normally operates from the Atlantic Ocean. The Marauders were tagged to fill an open hole in CVW-2’s deployment schedule but it was not the only unique experience for the squadron.

On Dec. 26, while the squadron was in the port of Hong Kong, one of the largest earthquakes in the last 40 years hit the Indian Ocean. The tsunami it produced devastated the coastal regions of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, Thailand and other countries, causing damage as far away as South Africa.

The crew and personnel aboard the Lincoln joined the relief efforts by delivering supplies and assistance to victims on the island of Sumatra in support of Operation Unified Assistance.

“On average we loaded about 100,000 pounds of food and water each day that I was ashore,” said Lt. Adrian Jope, pilot, VFA-82. “Working in the mud and the rain, it was the most rewarding experience of my naval career.”

Most of the family members did not mind the month delay because they knew their loved ones were participating in a good cause, according to Heather Borden, wife of Lt. j.g. Kelly Borden, pilot, VFA-82.

“If you have to be gone another month, what a great reason to be delayed,” Borden said. “They did a lot of good out there. It was hard but it makes us very proud.”

The Marauders also participated in Operation Cope Tiger, a multi-national exercise hosted by Thailand. The two-week training exercise brings together air and ground units from the United States, Singapore and Thailand.

“It was quite a unique opportunity,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Montgomery, operations officer, VFA-82. “Normally the Navy participates in these types of exercises while operating from the ship. It was great to get face-to-face briefs and debriefs with the other participants in the exercise.”

After completing the exercise the squadron detachment rejoined the Lincoln and headed home. As the squadron arrived in three different groups throughout the day, cheers and tears of celebration rang through the hangar bay.

“These men and women did a great job,” Jones said. “They deserve a nice long break.”

The deployment is expected to be the last for the 38-year-old squadron. The squadron is scheduled to be disestablished later this year as part of an effort to meld the Navy and Marine Corps aviation team. For now, the challenges of the past and future are being set aside as the Marauders soak in the success of their deployment.

“It was worth it,” Borden said. “What we were able to do for Indonesia was a great experience.”


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