Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Okinawa MWSS puts boots on deck for first time

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

CAMP FIREBIRD, Iraq (May 15, 2008) – Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, currently assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), is the first III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Marine Wing Support Squadron to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The deployment allows most of the Marines a chance to conduct operations in an environment they are not accustomed too.

“We wanted to give our Marines and sailors the opportunity to make a global impact,” said Lt. Col. Matthew R. Crabill, the commanding officer for MWSS-172. “They’ve been all over Asia during the past year, and when asked to deploy here they said ‘yeah, I’ll do that too.’”

The decision to send a 1st MAW support squadron was designed to reduce the deployment rate between squadrons in the other Marine Aircraft Wings.

Until the “Firebirds” transferred authority with MWSS-473 last month, the support duties were upheld by 2nd, 3rd and 4th MAW squadrons respectively; all headquartered in the United States.

Working with foreign militaries and breaching the language barrier is a familiar task to the Okinawa-based Marines.

“Coming from Pacific Command, the Marines are familiar with working with engineers from other countries,” said 2nd Lt. Crystal Serrano, the combat engineer platoon commander with MWSS-172. “The big difference now is we’re in a combat environment and we’re always maintaining a constant state of awareness.”

An MWSS is a multi-facetted unit, capable of many different jobs and missions.
Each day brings something new for the squadron as the Marines perform many functions of aviation ground support aboard Al Asad Air Base and throughout the Anbar Province.

“This is a highly technical unit with 40 to 50 (military occupational specialties) pulling together to complete several functions of aviation ground support,” said Crabill. “Everyone has to be professionally competent in their field, yet ready to become a part of a mission-tailored team at a moments notice.”

The squadron has a command structure focused on small-unit leadership by noncommissioned officers, which along with dedication to complete the mission, is a large part of their success.

“Almost every Marine who had to extend their contract with us in order to make this deployment did so,” said Crabill. “Most of our leaders are Iraq and Afghanistan war-veterans who wanted to be with their Marines and sailors during this deployment. These are all measures of the command’s collective commitment.”

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