News: The Thunderbolts build camaraderie during squadron tournament
Story by Sgt. Gina C. Rindt
The day was cold and windy, but that didn't deter Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 from charging forward, guns blazing, clubs swinging and poles raised at their squadron tournament, March 20.
The Marines, also known as the Thunderbolts, were given the option to compete in one of three events, fishing at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Third Battalion ponds, golfing at the Legends Golf Course and Pro Shop, also located aboard Parris Island, and shooting skeet and trap at the Sportsman's Club aboard the Air Station.
The Thunderbolts started the tournament in their hangar, with a speech from their commanding officer, Col. Pete Ponte, about the schedule of events for the fun filled time ahead.
"The squadron works hard preparing for every mission, and I think they should play hard as well," Ponte said. "I enjoy seeing the Marines having fun and getting the chance to spend a day together doing something other than working."
The events were split throughout the day and lasted until 3 p.m. During the event, the Marines were transported by bus from the Air Station to each individual event aboard Parris Island so that everybody was given the opportunity to participate.
"The squadron wanted to make the travel process easier for the Marines during the day to ensure full participation," said Monica Greer, the VMFA-251 family readiness officer.
During the skeet and trap shooting portion, the Thunderbolts competed as teams or as individuals and prizes were awarded for the highest score in each category.
"This was the first time I shot skeet and trap at the Sportsman's Club and if given the chance to return, I would," said Lance Cpl. Paul Stanton, an airframe mechanic with VMFA-251. "I chose this portion of the tournament because it's something I've never done before."
The fishing event was an individual effort and participants were able to win prizes for catching the largest and second largest fish.
"It's a lot of fun just to get outside work and have a little fun with the Marines you work with," said Cpl. Jason Bailey, a corrosion control specialist with the squadron.
For the golfing portion of the tournament, four person teams competed for a chance to win a prize by being the team with the best score or having the longest drive by one Marine.
"I enjoy golfing and was excited to get the chance to participate in the tournament," said Sgt. Brian Rushing, a maintenance controller with VMFA-251. "The tournament was a great time for Marines to enjoy themselves."
The Thunderbolts plan many events during the year for Marines and their families.
The last gathering was during Christmas and the squadron wanted to kick off another event just for the Marines to keep camaraderie between the troops and have a well deserved day of fun, according to Ponte.
Afterwards, the Thunderbolts all met for a barbecue to announce the winners and hand out prizes. Prizes, such as time off, gift certificates, discounts at local shops and memberships to The Legends and the Sportsman's Club for a year.
"Preparing for a deployment can be strenuous and stressful, but having competitive events allows the Marines to pull together in other areas," explained Sgt. Maj. Marty Fenton, VMFA-251 sergeant major.
"As we start our workups, we wanted to have a tournament filled with events so the Marines can relax and enjoy themselves," Fenton continued.
The barbecue was held at The Legends and was made possible by many volunteers.
"With Marines on different schedules, it's harder to get to know everyone as the family readiness officer," said Greer. "Having events such as this one gives everyone, including me, a great opportunity to interact with other shops and crews."
The turnout was great and I'm thankful for 100 percent participation, Ponte said. We hope for the same amount of participation for Jane Wayne Day on Monday.