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MCB Camp Butler

Photo by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

Hawks latest jet powered Hornets in Iraq, Moonlighters return to US

20 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

Flying F/A-18D Hornets, the Hawks arrived at Al Asad Air Base Feb. 9, taking responsibility from the Moonlighters, allowing them to return to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will provide close air support to friendly forces in Iraq as VMFA(AW)-332, MAG-31, 2nd MAW, provided during their seven-month rotation in the combat zone. "It's a real privilege to serve our nation, especially when we get to help people achieve their freedom and establish their own brand of democracy. To be here in its infancy, and to assist in its first steps is a true honor," said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Mullin, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-533. "Additionally, it's what we all aspire to as Marines, to face our nation's foes in the field and prevent them from ever again threatening our homes and fellow countrymen. It's what we signed up for." Taking over responsibility from the Moonlighters carries with it a constant life and death mission for the Hawks."We will be providing timely and accurate close air support and airborne command and control, day and night, in all weather to the Marines of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force as they engage the forces arrayed against us," said Mullin, a Franklin, Mass., native. "This is what Marine aviation is all about ... delivering ordnance in close proximity to friendly forces in order to help them accomplish their mission and achieve the objective of supporting the Iraqi people as they defend their fledgling democracy."The transfer of authority from the Moonlighters to the Hawks is just one of several scheduled rotations of Marine aviation squadrons in Iraq."We've been prepping for this since we came off the unit deployment plan a year ago, so the Marines were anxious to leave and start working," said Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Mykoo, squadron sergeant major, VMFA(AW)-533. "The Hawks are ready. They've been waiting for this moment and are ready to attack."A rotation in place between two squadrons usually takes a day or two, but the Hawks were launching their aircraft just a few hours after their arrival, according to Mykoo."We had a good advance party come before the aircraft arrived to prepare," said the Jacksonville, Fla., native. "The Moonlighters have laid solid groundwork for us, but there is always room for improvement.""Our goal is to make it even better, that's what the Marine Corps is all about, we change duty stations and deploy constantly bringing new ideas to the job," explained Mykoo. "Then the guys replacing us will say, 'The Hawks set us up, but now we got it,' and we can go home."After providing a solid turnover to the Hawks, the Moonlighters are heading back to their families in the United States."(The deployment) went pretty quick, you go to sleep on a Monday and seem to wake up on a Friday, but I have missed my wife and kids," said Staff Sgt. Derrick L. White Sr., administrative chief, VMFA(AW)-332 and Charleston, S.C., native. "The transition went pretty smooth, because the squadron replacing us was ready to take over."