Photo Information

Sgt. Wayne A. Switzer, EA-6B plane captain and native of Clinton, Miss., directs a Prowler down the tarmac on its way to the flightline.

Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Seahawks conclude Iraqi tour, make mark in history

22 Jul 2005 | Gunnery Sgt. Shannon Arledge

Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 started its journey home today.  After seven months in a deployed combat environment, the 190 Marines are ending their deployment that began in mid January.

“All the Marines were very eager to support [Operation Iraqi Freedom],” said Sgt. Joseph A. Esala, electronics section, a native of Statesboro, Ga.  “It is a challenging and worthy effort.  I’m honored to have been involved in it.”

“We were ready,” added Cpl. Kiel M. Naumann, airframes, who is from Pinellas, Fla.  “We trained very hard back in Cherry Point, and we got a chance to come out here and do everything we could to help the Iraqi people build a more stable country.”

The unit, referred to as the Seahawks, was the first EA-6B Prowler squadron to operate here and experienced minor challenges, which their training allowed them to quickly overcome. 

“This is a relatively austere environment, which presented us with daily challenges, that included connectivity, water, power, environmental hazards and indirect fires from insurgent forces,” said Maj. Shane B. Conrad, executive officer, a native of Sayre, Pa.  “The men and women of VMAQ-4 took all these challenges in stride and never missed a beat.  I have never seen better morale on a deployment that I did here and it is directly attributed to the quality of our Marines and solid leadership from the [noncommissioned officer] ranks on up.”

The Seahawks flew more than 2,500 hours and logged more than 600 sorties during the deployment.  The Marines will arrive in eastern North Carolina proud of the job they did having made their mark on history.

“I remember seeing pictures of the Iraqi’s being allowed to vote for the first time,” said Cpl. Michael W. Gerencser, navigations equipment, and native of Richmond, Va.  “Each one had their finger dyed in ink.  Seeing their people come together to help create a new democracy was indeed a unique experience,” he recalled.  “I know for certain that we are bringing a country together and providing a future some that never thought it was possible.  I feel like I have made a mark on history and can say I made someone’s family that much safer.”

The Seahawks deployed here to the Al Anbar province with cutting edge technology.  The Prowler aircraft employs non-kinetic firepower to protect Marines and soldiers operating on the ground.  While much of the unit’s mission is classified, instead of engaging enemy targets with bombs or rockets the Prowler attacks by disrupting communications or disables the enemy’s capabilities using specialized equipment. 

“Throughout this deployment [the Marines] stayed focused on the mission, which is evident in the unprecedented numbers of flight hours we are able to fly in support of coalition forces,” said Conrad.  “They did a super job.  These are the type of men and women who serve our country and America should be proud.”

Working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, was the norm here.  The Marines of VMAQ-4 worked tireless hours to ensure the daily missions were executed.  From the maintainers and plane captains who checked and double checked the integrity of the aircraft, and to the pilots who flew eight hour sorties, the Seahawks continued to support day and night.

“Our performance has been magnificent,” said Sgt. Maj. Terry D. Kraker, squadron sergeant major and native of Milwaukee, Wisc.  “When we arrived everyone was extremely pumped up and I thought this mindset would wear off; it never did.  Our numbers reflect hard work and a must-do attitude.”

“I am extremely proud of the squadron,” said Lt. Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, commanding officer, and native of Littleton, Colo.  “Everyone put forth the maximum effort while making numerous sacrifices.  Their professionalism and dedication enabled the squadron’s success.”

As the Seahawks of VMAQ-4 depart the barren Iraqi landscape, they welcome the Banshees of VMAQ-1 who have taken the reigns.

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