Friday, February 25, 2011

Yuma's Avengers embark on 13th MEU

Story by Lance Cpl. Laura Cardoso

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Walsh
Marines aboard the USS Boxer man the rails in the hangar bay of the ship Feb. 22, 2011. Approximately half of the Marine Attack Squadron 211 joined the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Boxer Feb. 21, 2011. The MEU is underway for a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific region. The other half of the Wake Island Avengers are currently deployed with the 31st MEU and participating in exercise Cobra Gold 2011, an annual multinational exercise between the U.S. and Thailand.
Marine Attack Squadron 211 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 Marines embarked on the USS Boxer Feb. 22, 2011, from San Diego for a seven-month deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Approximately 100 Marines and six AV-8B Harriers will be providing close-air support for the MEU's infantry units as well as reconnaissance capabilities throughout the MEU's diverse variety of missions.

"Our mission out there is to provide support to the 13th MEU in any way they need," said Capt. Colin Newbold, VMA-211 pilot. "I'm confident my men will get the job done."

An unusual number of Marines within the detachment have never deployed, which caused a small concern amongst the command while preparing.

"When we first realized that a large amount of our Marines had no deployment experience, we were skeptical as to how smoothly our operations would go," said Gunnery Sgt. James Grace, VMA-211 avionics technician. "However, once workups started up and their training progressed, we were very confident in their skills. I don't believe we will run into any problems in the future, and I look forward to seeing these Marines show their stuff on the deployment."

The squadron began preparing for the deployment in October 2010. Training included standard ground preparation and on-ship training aboard the Boxer, as well as the station's Auxiliary Airfield 2, which simulates the deck of a ship, offering pilots an area to practice their landings and gain required training hours.

Throughout that time many of the inexperienced Marines got a chance to preview what their lives will be like aboard the Boxer.

"Working on a ship was a new experience," said Cpl. Renard Williams, VMA-211 airframes mechanic. "We learned a lot about what it takes to live on a ship and how our jobs are going to be at sea. I know this is going to be a good experience because we will have the opportunity to experience new cultures along the way."

The rest of the squadron is currently deployed with the 31st MEU and is slated to return in early June 2011.

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