Photo Information

Sgt. Wayne A. Switzer, EA-6B plane captain renders a salute as one of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4's Prowlers taxies out to take off.

Photo by Cpl. Rocco C. DeFilippis

Seahawks 'prowl' Al Asad in support of ground forces

24 Feb 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Marine aviation exists to support the war fighter, and through the years, the different ways in which the aviation combat element has provided that support has grown and evolved at the speed of technology.

Riding the cutting edge of technology, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 is employing its non-kinetic firepower from the air to protect Marines and soldiers on the ground.

The Seahawks, currently based at Al Asad air base, Iraq, have been flying an average of three to four, eight-hour missions per day since their arrival here in the Al Anbar province. The hard work of the Marines in the various sections of the squadron ensures that the Prowlers can take to the skies and complete the electronic warfare mission.

"The Marines and sailors of VMAQ-4 are extremely upbeat and motivated," said Sgt. Maj. Terry D. Kraker, VMAQ-4 sergeant major, and native of Milwaukee. "These Marines hit the ground running and have not stopped for 30 days."

The squadron's EA-6B Prowlers are busy conducting electronic attacks, and providing electronic protection and surveillance in direct support of all forces operating within the area of operation.

"This allows our ground forces to conduct their daily missions without prohibitive interference from enemy forces," Kraker said. "We started with nothing and now we have the ability to fly sustained combat operations."

The Seahawks senior enlisted attributes the success of the squadron to the noncommissioned officers and junior Marines in the squadron.
"(These Marines) have really shined throughout the entire process, stepping up to the plate and hitting home runs each time at the bat," Kraker said.

"Our Marines work hard because we know the Marines on the ground depend on the capabilities of our aircraft," said Sgt. David E. Chopan, aircraft safety equipment mechanic, and native of Marion, N.Y. "We are dedicated to ensuring that the jets get out to do what they have to do. If we drop the ball, then a convoy goes out unprotected."

Working two 12-hour shifts a day, seven days a week, the Marines and sailors of VMAQ-4 are also contributing to the overall effort here, building and fortifying workspaces and manning security posts as part of the force protection posture here.

"Al Asad has suffered severe damage from previous battles, and our Marines had to basically start from scratch," Kraker said. "I see these Marines on a daily basis and they are extremely proud of doing something different in the defense of their great homeland."

Officially VMAQ-4 is a Combined Forces Air Component Command asset but their operations are completely integrate with battlefield and battlespace operations. Receiving enormous support from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), the Seahawks provide their services to combatant commanders on a daily basis.

"From patrolling the skies over Iraq to conducting maintenance on the ground, VMAQ-4 is performing at a caliber for all others to emulate," Kraker said. "I only wish their spouses and family members could see these Marines and sailors in action. They are truly the best America has to offer."

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