News: Tomcats prowl through Land of Rising Sun
Story by Lance Cpl. Charles Clark
IWAKUNI, Japan - Flying through the Land of the Rising Sun, Marine Attack Squadron 311, a 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aviation combat element harrier squadron, continues to hone its skills in the air-to-air arena here Feb. 7.
“While the 31st MEU has its own mission in the Western Pacific, we support it as the air combat element, but MAG-12 has provided us
an opportunity to perform some training here,” said Lt. Col. Peter S. Blake, VMA-311 commanding officer. “We are able to get in a lot of training which deals directly with supporting the MEU in WESTPAC.”
Six AV-8B Harriers, along with approximately 150 VMA-311 Marines, flew into WESTPAC as part of the Unit Deployment Program to further the squadron’s training and maintain a high level of mission readiness.
“I’m a firm believer in the motto ‘Leaders are made between wars and tested in battle’,” said Sgt. Maj. William R. Shaw, VMA-311 sergeant major. “In my opinion, if you constantly train for a real world scenario then you will be as ready as you can be for war.”
Maintaining the high level of preparedness for unexpected changes during deployment holds true to the expeditionary nature which has made the Marine Corps the tip of the spear for America.
“We’re trying to make sure we are able to move the squadron anywhere in 24 hours and perform,” said Shaw. “In this dynamic environment, Marines know that’s what we do.”
Marine Aircraft Group 12 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 have ensured the maintenance Marines are well equipped to keep the aircraft flying.
“Both MAG-12 and MALS-12 have given us as much support as we could ask for,” said Blake. “We have about 35 MALS-12 Marines supporting our maintenance Marines with the aircraft.”
VMA-311 operates as a duel deployment squadron. Half of its aircraft and Marines are here while the rest continue their training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
“It’s difficult being on deployment when half of your squadron is back home,” said Blake. “The leadership there will ensure the Marines are maintaining mission readiness and hit the ground running when it’s their turn to go on deployment.”
VMA-311 shares some history with the station. Retired Col. Speed F. Shea, former station commanding officer from May 1979 to July 1983, was a VMA-311 pilot and the first pilot to land in Chu Lai, Vietnam in 1965.
VMA-311 has a rich history of heroes and role models for our Marines, stated Shaw.
Capt. Ted Williams, a former Boston Red Sox player, flew in VMA-311.
Williams was a wingman for Retired Col. John Glenn, a VMA-311 pilot during the late 1940’s. In 1962 Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in spacecraft Friendship 7 and later became an Ohio state senator.
With a storied past and bright future VMA-311 continues to soar.