Bats take over in Iraq, Hawks return to US

15 Jun 2007 | Staff Sgt. Raymie G. Cruz

Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 arrived at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 13, taking responsibility from VMFA(AW)-533, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and allowing them to return to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. The VMFA(AW)-242 Bats will provide close air support to friendly forces in Iraq just as the Hawks of VMFA(AW)-533 provided during their seven-month rotation in Iraq."I've flown with every Hornet squadron in the Marine Corps and have never seen it this good," said Maj. Robert C. Boyles, executive officer, VMFA(AW)-533. "We've flown more than 7,500 hours in the past six months. That's more than what we would fly in two years in the States. The maintenance crews have done a truly outstanding job. They are responsible for producing 99 percent of our mission launch rate."Adding to the missions flown in Iraq, the Hawks extended their limited resources to provide leadership training to Marines in and outside their squadron. "From the officers to the junior maintenance Marines, the tour was outstanding," said Boyles, a Cherryville, N.C., native. "Just look what a handful of noncommissioned officers have done out here. We had five sergeants who ran a corporals course and had 66 graduates, which included Marines from other squadrons."Having served in Iraq before, the Bats know that taking over responsibility from the Hawks carries with it a constant life and death mission."Winning or losing this war is not decided by us," said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Mahoney, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-242, and a Cohasset, Mass., native. "The Hornets aren't going to win this. We are here to support that 19-year-old lance corporal with a rifle and bad attitude on the ground."The Transfer of Authority from the Hawks to the Bats is just one of several scheduled rotations of Marine aviation squadrons in Iraq. The Bats prepared for the tour with training at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., prior to their anticipated return to Al Asad. "We rolled right out of Exercise Desert Talon and into the Fourth of July holiday to say goodbye to loved ones before moving out," said Sgt. Maj. Clifford W. Grant, sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-242. "We have about one-third of the Marines that we had on the last tour and the team concept is rolling in good. The Hawks welcomed us with open arms and even with a lack of resources, they bent over backwards for us." Just like their predecessors, the Bats know constant maintenance and the drive to carry out the mission will lead to their success. "We have a lot of eager people here to get the support to those ground troops who need us," said Grant, a Los Angeles native. "Our objective is to support them. We will be there."After providing a solid turnover to the Bats, the Hawks are heading back to their families in the United States."I know for a fact that the commanding officer and I could not be more proud of the Hawks and what they have accomplished," said Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Mykoo, sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-533, and a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "Believing in what they were doing really made a difference in the rebuilding of Iraq and in the War on Terrorism."