News: Bengals greet family and friends
Story by Sgt. Gina C. Rindt
Children waved flags, banners fluttered in the wind and families patiently awaited their loved ones arrival Tuesday as Marines and sailors with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 returned to the Air Station after a seven-month Western Pacific deployment.
During the deployment VMFA(AW)-224, also known as the Bengals, participated in multiple exercises.
"They conducted exercises Cope Tiger, Ardent Blitz and Command Sling while in Thailand, Singapore, and Korea with visits to Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines," said Maj. Sean Henrickson, the executive officer of VMFA(AW)-224. "The squadron also had the opportunity to interact and fly with the Royal Thai air force, the Republic of Singapore air force, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy."
The Marines performed exemplary as expected and led Marine Aircraft Group 12 in maintenance readiness numbers and flight hours while in Iwakuni, continued Henrickson.
The Bengals dropped 25,780 pounds of inert ordnance while deployed. Most of the exercises were air-to-air focused, but while in Korea the unit shifted to air-to-ground training.
The Bengals were also able to go on Single Marine Program trips and unit organized functions to many places such as Geihoku Valley and Fukuoka, Japan. In Thailand, the Marines and sailors were able to visit the Khao Yai National Park, the Phimai Ruins, the night market and many other destinations.
"It was a great opportunity to be able to go on various trips while deployed," said Sgt. Jason Berg, the Bengals' tool room non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "I got to go on a snowboarding trip to Geihoku Valley while in Japan."
The Marines and sailors were also able to fulfill various annual training requirements during the deployment such as the pistol range, gas chamber and a physical fitness test. Professional Military Education, such as Sergeants Course, career course and advanced course which are helpful for promotion were also available.
"We continued to complete annual training during the deployment with the help of Staff Sgt. Mark Allen, the training staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the Bengals," Henrickson said. "They were able to train everyone to at least a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program gray belt level and we had several attain black belt."
For many Marines and sailors this was their first deployment outside of the country. They were allowed to enjoy the many sight seeing opportunities in the many countries visited during the deployment.
"It was a great experience to be able to enjoy the Japanese and Thai cultures while on deployment," said Lance Cpl. Christopher Ilas, an aviation operations specialist with the Bengals. "I was also able to enjoy a lot of different events while on deployment."
After six months of anticipation and waiting for their loved ones to come home, the families and friends were finally able to reunite with their service members.
"It was good to see the expressions on our daughters' faces when their dad walked off the plane," said Jenn Scherr, the wife of a Bengal marine. "It's nice to have my husband home because now we can go back to our normal routine and be together as a family."