News: Green Knights reveal aspects of UDP life
Story by Lance Cpl. Charles Clark
IWAKUNI, Japan - Fresh off Exercise Lava Viper 2012, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 arrived here Jan. 25 to continue its Unit Deployment Program in the Western Pacific.
VMFA (AW )-121, also known as the Green Knights, supports Marine Aircraft Group 12 and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing operations.
The UDP is a program which allows units to deploy to various locations throughout WESTPAC and participate in exercises with international allied forces.
The Green Knights are ready to deploy anywhere within 48 hours of being activated, keeping true to the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps.
Training for any situation the F/A-18 Hornet squadron could come up against is a key element to maintaining mission readiness.
“We have been training all yearlong,” said Lt. Col. Michael R. Waterman, VMFA (AW )-121 commanding officer. “We just finished Exercise Lava Viper, so our aircrew is very proficient in the air-to-ground arena. Now we are able to focus on air-to-air interdiction training here.”
Never knowing what kind of situation the aircrew will be put into maintains the resolve of the squadron’s high level of training.
“As an F/A-18 fighter attack aircraft squadron, we have a general idea of what we could be tasked with during an operation,” said Waterman. “Whether it is in the air-to-air or air-to-ground arena, we have to be prepared for the whole spectrum of missions we would need to accomplish. We train for both situations during UDP deployments.”
Flying to a target to drop ordnance while fighting through enemy aircraft would be a situation where having proficiency in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat skills work hand-in-hand.
“For Marines, a UDP is like taking the knowledge and skills honed in grade school and performing a college test under six months of pressure,” said Maj. Mark D. Bortnem, VMFA (AW )-121 executive officer. “The unit deployment program shows our squadron’s ability to maintain mission readiness no matter what.”
What many do not realize is the UDP shows the United States’ resolve in protecting its allies.
“Having squadrons all over the Asian Pacific region, from Misawa to Guam to South Korea, ensures America’s allies we are going to be here to support them no matter the situation in both a military capacity and as neighbors,” said Bortnem. “The UDP also demonstrates to our potential enemies we are here and are prepared to defend our friends and allies should they be threatened.”
One idea the Green Knights’ leadership has tried to impress upon their squadron is that they never know when a situation will arise and break them from the routine training they are conducting.
Last year’s earthquake and ensuing tsunami was an example of that.
“The UDP squadrons on deck during that tragedy pooled their resources to help with the relief effort as best as they could,” said Bortnem. “Our Marines know if something like that should happen again, we will put 100 percent of our abilities into helping any way we can and show the friendship the U.S. and Japan have with each other.”
Supporting allied countries is not the only display of compassion the Green Knights have shown. The Marine Corps is known for being a band of brothers, and the Green Knights show that by helping other UDP squadrons.
“We are a family,” said Sgt. Maj. Timothy P. Haney, VMFA (AW)-121 sergeant major. “If we need help, we will get help either from MAG- 12, which has welcomed us here with open arms, or one of the other UDP squadrons on deck, and we will help them if they are in need of assistance.”
This “family” keeps the squadron running and the aircraft safe and
flying. Whether it is through the support shops or the maintenance
of the Hornets.
“The high-tempo training we are going through keeps us on our toes to be ready for anything,” said Lance Cpl. Johnny Medina, VMFA (AW )-121 avionics technician. “The pilots trust us with their lives, so we have to always give it our all to ensure their safety and the mission readiness of the aircraft.”
The 1st MAW and UDP squadron Marines ensure the tip of the spear stays sharp in WESTPA C.