KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), is down to the last 30 days of their deployment while still maintaining and upholding the standards with which they arrived.
Since May, the Marines have worked tirelessly to keep the VMFA-232, "Red Devils," F/A-18s flying and supporting International Security Assistance Force ground troops.
"The Marines have worked very diligently on aircraft maintenance to support the troops on the ground," said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Webb, the Red Devils ground safety officer from Warren, Ohio. "They have stayed very positive and motivated. They have done an outstanding job."
The Marines work 12-hour shifts in their respective job fields to contribute to the overall mission of keeping the F/A-18 Hornets flying. They also are responsible for performing dignified transfer ceremonies for fallen service members at Kandahar Air Field.
As for the Red Devil pilots, they logged more than 4,090 combat flight hours, with more than 1,190 sorties. They also performed more than 140 weapon employment strikes – subsequently employing more than 24,000 pounds of ordnance and expending more than 30,000 20 mm rounds.
This amount of support has led to a special bond and unity with the ground troops, according to Lt. Col. Daniel Shipley, the Red Devils’ commanding officer.
"I couldn’t have expected to experience it," said Shipley, who is originally from Summit, N.J. "I think we’re going to miss [being here] in a strange way. It’s what we are bred to do."
VMFA-232 Marines are proud to complete their supporting role and Marines of VMFA-122, 2nd MAW, the "Werewolves," are already arriving to learn their area of responsibility and preparing to take command.
"If [VMFA] 122 performs better than we did, then we are successful," Shipley said. "We came here with the purpose to support the Marines in Helmand province. By saving more lives, we did our job."
The Red Devils will spend their remaining time continuing to support ISAF and coalition forces until they return to their families and home station, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.