AL ASAD, Iraq -- A platoon of Marines is on patrol in northern Iraq. When they begin taking enemy fire they call for an air strike on the building that enemy forces are using for cover.
A few moments later a tiger striped F/A-18 Hornet screeches across the sky dropping ordnance on the insurgent position and allowing the Marines to continue their patrol. The F/A-18 Hornet that allowed them to continue their fight and push forward belongs to the Fighting Bengals of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224.
The Bengals deployed to Iraq in January and have been executing missions throughout the country, not just the areas Marines patrol.
“We are attached to the Marine Aircraft Wing in every way, but we get our missions from the Coalition Force Air Component Commander,” said 1st Lt. Michael Greene, weapons and sensors officer, VMFA(AW)-224, a Washingtonville, New York. “That is why we perform missions that take us all over the country.”
The mission of the Bengals is to support the soldiers and Marines on the ground by providing close air support while the ground forces operate throughout the area of operations.
“We keep the aircraft in good condition so they can keep bombs on target and accomplish their mission,” said Sgt. Charles Mcwhorter, powerliner, VMFA(AW)-224, a Houston native.
The Bengals have been in country for a month and have been conducting operations 24-hours a day, seven days a week in all types of weather conditions.
“I’m impressed with how our Marines have adapted to their situation,” said Lt. Col. Will Thomas, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-224. “We have experienced the sandstorms, blowing rain and temperatures in the 20’s. Our whole squadron has worked around the clock. We are all focused and committed to the mission.”
“The weather has been a constantly changing,” Mcwhorter said. “With all the different types of working environments we continue to finish the task at hand.”
The Marines were working hard before flight operations began. Shortly after arriving in country the advanced party began working to prepare the workspaces for the main body. The hangars and workspaces needed to be cleaned and wired before the bulk of personnel arrived.
“It took a couple of long days but we were able to get everything done,” said Cpl. Nathaniel Stephens, data technician, VMFA(AW)-224, a Pennsacola, Fla. native.
When the rest of the squadron arrived they saw that all of the hard work had been completed and they could begin their work, but many of the sections still needed a small makeover so they could perform and not worry about anything but completing the mission.
“When I arrived our biggest problem was a lack of organization,” said Sgt. Joshua Boyd, electric shop day crew supervisor, VMFA(AW)-224, an Addison, Ala. native. “We built tables and places for stowing our rifles and flack jackets while we worked on the flightline. It all helped us work more efficiently and tactically.”
With all the work the Bengals have done in the first month, they show no signs of slowing down. The pilots and flightline crews have already logged more than 1400 hours of flight hours.
“We are here to accomplish our mission,” Thomas said. “After that we want to return home with all of our Marines and a feeling of accomplishment knowing we did everything to the best of our ability.”
-For more information on this story e-mail Cpl. Herron at email@example.com-