Lance Cpl. Manuel F. Guerrero --
Marines and sailors from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 saw the fireworks burst a little brighter on Independence Day as they returned from a six-month Marine Forces Pacific Deployment aboard the USS John C. Stennis.
Ten pilots flew F/A-18C “Hornets” onto Marine Corps Air Station Miramar’s flight line to begin the homecoming celebrations July 3rd. Also, more than 420 Marines and sailors from the “Death Rattlers” and 30 others from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11 stepped off the Stennis to continue the festivities July 6.
Eager families welcomed the service members home from deployment.
“We are all happy to have them back and proud of what they do for our country,” said Jerry Arriba, father of Capt. Rashaad Jamal, a pilot for the Death Rattlers.
The Death Rattlers participated in Operation Foal Eagle and Exercise Northern Edge during their deployment in the Western Pacific. The squadron’s mission aboard the aircraft carrier was to conduct sustained combat air operations while forward in a global arena. The Death Rattlers completed more than 400 sorties and 500 hours of flight time during their deployment.
The squadron deployed with a lot of new pilots and they handled it really well, commented Col. Erik K. Fippinger, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11. The Marines engaged with other countries’ militaries and did a lot of team building efforts with them.
While the Marines were not conducting missions, they performed humanitarian operations during port calls. The port calls included stops in Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore. From moving sand bags for a construction project in Hong Kong to interacting with special-needs children in Singapore, the Marines worked hard at building a good repertoire with the citizens of these foreign countries.
“The one thing that remained the same was the Marines’ generosity during our deployment,” said Sgt. Maj. Daniel W. Fliegal, the sergeant major of VMFA-323. “They volunteered a lot of time, sweat and effort to some great community outreach projects for the less fortunate.”
Many of the Marines also received individual awards during the deployment. Some of the awards included the Good Conduct Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
During their six-month deployment, the Death Rattlers conducted humanitarian efforts, essential training, interaction within foreign countries and most importantly, mission accomplishment.